Education Secretary Edilberto de Jesus admits that shortages in classrooms and teachers throughout the country have increased to 42,641 and 51,319, respectively. Fifty percent of public schools, he said, have no principals at all. Meanwhile, students threaten to walk out on school opening June 21 to protest government neglect.
By Ronalyn V. Olea
The League of Filipino Students-High School (LFS-HS) questioned the readiness of the Department of Education (DepED) for the June 21 opening of public high schools. China Pearl de Vera, LFS-HS spokesperson, over the weekend said the P106.4 billion allotted to education is so meager it cannot solve the basic problems of education, all the more its deteriorating quality.
Gonzalo Alonzo, a sophomore student of Quirino High School in Quezon City, said the average class size in their school is more than 50. He said their school also lacks textbooks. “Kailangang mag-share ang dalawa hanggang tatlong estudyante sa isang libro.” (Two to three students have to share one textbook.)
In San Francisco High School also in Quezon City, 60 students have to be cramped in a class. “Some hold their classes along the corridors, on the stage or even under the mango tree due to lack of classrooms and school buildings,” de Vera revealed.
De Jesus admits that shortages in classrooms and teachers have increased to 42,641 and 51,319, respectively. Fifty percent or 20,636 public schools (19,313 elementary schools and 1,323 secondary schools) have no principals at all.
Per capita spending for every student in public elementary and secondary schools is only P3,557 (U.S.$63.52). Meanwhile, the budget for maintenance and other operating expenditures (MOOE) is only P94 (U.S.$1.68) for elementary schools and P283 (U.S.$5.05) for high schools.
“Many schools ask ‘contributions’ from parents to cover the salaries for janitors, security guards and other school personnel,” said de Vera.
Kate dela Calzada, a fourth year student from the University of the Philippines Integrated School (UPIS), complained of the increase in the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) fee from P250 (U.S.$4.56) to P1,000 (U.S.$17.86).
Dela Calzada said no consultation was held. “Ito pong PTA ang pinagkukunan ng panggastos ng school namin. Kulang po kasi ang badyet na binibigay ng gobyerno.” (The PTA fee is being used for the maintenance and other operating expenses of the school. The subsidy that our school gets from the government is not enough).
Dela Calzada added that their school started collecting P60 (U.S.$1.07) as guidance fee this year.
Mark Pangilinan, 18, a member of Anakbayan (nation’s youth), said the state of education denies many youth like him of the right to education. He has reached sixth grade but could not afford to go to high school.
Pangilinan said his father works as an employee in their barangay. He has 12 siblings. Most of his sisters and brothers did not finish high school. “Kailangang may huminto para makatuntong ang iba naming kapatid sa eskwela (The older siblings have to stop schooling so that the younger ones can go to school).”
“Kahit libre raw ang edukasyon, di pa rin kaya ng mga mahihirap na tulad namin ang mag-aral. Paano ang baon at pamasahe sa araw-araw, uniporme at iba pang gastusin? Minsan nga, wala kaming makain.” (Even if education is supposed to be free, the poor cannot manage to go to school. Where will we look for money for our food and transportation allowance, uniform and other expenses? Sometimes, we do not even have anything to eat).
Instead of increasing the budget to make education more accessible to the poor, LFS-HS said that the government is implementing cost-cutting measures. Dela Calzada cited the downsizing of the UPIS student population as an example of the cost-cutting measures being implemented by the government. She said that every school year a section is shaved from every grade level resulting to bigger class sizes. Worse, since 2001, only 100 first year high school students are admitted every year.
Another school in Quezon City, Pura V. Kalaw High School, stopped accepting freshmen enrollees in 2003 and will close down after its remaining students have graduated.
In a separate statement, the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) said the bridge program is discriminatory to the poor.
Ronald Allan Afan, NUSP national executive vice president, said the students already bear the brunt of low subsidy to education.
“Why punish them for not being competent enough? It is not their fault. They are victims of government’s neglect,” said Afan
Afan averred that the bridge program is also part of the cost-cutting measures being implemented by the government. “DepEd officials have the gall to advise parents and students to transfer to private schools if they do not want to undergo the bridge program. In this time of economic crisis, that would be a suicide.”
Afan said there is in fact an exodus of students from private schools to public schools. Pangilinan added that with the bridge program, education for the poor becomes even more remote.
De Vera announced they will stage a walk-out and march-rally in Mendiola this Monday to register their protest regarding the government’s neglect of their responsibility to make quality education accessible to the youth.