By ALDWIN QUITASOL
BAGUIO CITY — Public school teachers demand a higher budget allocation for education in a nationally coordinated action coinciding with the education budget deliberation by members of the Committee on Basic Education at the house of Congress.
Around 300 mentors from the different public schools over the Philippines who attended 2nd national leadership training seminar initiated by the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) marched down Session Road and staged a program at the People’s Park. The teachers were joined by different sectors and individuals.
Teachers and students protested the approval of President Benigno Aquino III’s of a P228, 871 Billion for the Department of Education. This, according to ACT is only 12.6% of the total budget amounting to P1.816 Trillion.
Budget for the State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) is also lowered by P21.8 billion for 2011 from the P22.03 billion last year. Aquino said this will give way to looking for other sources of funds for education instead of relying much on the government.
ACT National Vice-Chairperson Benjie Valbuena said that the amount is definitely not enough to realize the critical school input shortages. He explained that the country lacks 93, 000 teachers, 150 classrooms, 13,250,000 chairs and 151,000 water lines and sanitation facilities in the public schools.
ACT national council member and a Davao City public school teacher Ellenito Escalante said that in their place, around 80 pupils are jam packed in a classroom.
But he added that this is nothing to what he saw in the National capital Region where a classroom is being occupied by over 100 students. “Dito nga nanggaling ang kasabihang ‘Ma’am, dahan-dahan lang baka ka madaganan’ dahil sa napakakipot na ng silid-aralan” (this is where the saying “Ma’am, be careful so that you will not get trapped was derived), said Escalante.
Philippine Public School Teachers Association (PPSTA) and an ACT national council member Cristina Manalo criticized the Aquino administration for not prioritizing education. She said that while the president is not seriously looking at the sad state of the Philippine education, he is bent on implementing his program on universal kindergarten.
The universal kindergarten program is in preparation of a child to the DepEd’s K+ 12 program which will add two more years to basic education. The program proposed is K-6-4-2 which means kindergarten, elementary (six years), junior high school (four years), and senior high school (two years).
Manalo said that they are not against the universal kindergarten but they call the program of Aquino “KKK or Kilaweng Kirat na Kindergarten” because it is too raw and blurry.
Manalo challenged her fellow teachers saying they should break the culture of silence. “It is the time for us to be heard”, she said. She added that while the government is implementing programs concerning education where most of it are causing headaches for the people, and the teachers carry the burden despite their low salaries.
“Wala ng nararanasan ang mga guro sa araw-araw kundi hirap sa trabaho at kakulangan sa suweldo, na unti-unting bumababa ang dignidad, may mga masakit na katotohanang baon sila sa utang at napipilitang isanla ang kanilang ATM para lang makadagdag sa pangkain” ( The teachers are experiencing hardships from work and low salary, that their dignity are degrading little by little, there are painful realities that they are heavily indebted and they are forced to pawn their ATM cards) said Manalo.
Manalo said that the teachers should unite and fight for their rights and welfare. She said they should push the struggle for the salary upgrade of public mentors to cope with the rising cost of living.
ACT-Metro-Baguio chapter Chairperson Caster Palaganas said that the teachers, with the students and other sectors are marching on the streets annually on the same day where the education budget is being deliberated in the congress. She said that this will continue for years until the realization of the prioritization of education is done. # nordis.net