By ALDWIN QUITASOL
Northern Dispatch www.nordis.net
BAGUIO CITY – Public school teachers demand a higher budget allocation for education as they joined here the nationally coordinated action that coincided with the budget deliberations in Congress.
Some 300 mentors from different public schools in the Philippines who attended the second national leadership training seminar led by the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) marched down Session Road and staged a program at the People’s Park. With the teachers were activists from other sectors.
Teachers and students protested President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino’s proposed P228.9 billion for the Department of Education. This, said ACT, constitutes only 12.6-percent 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 encourage schools to look for other sources of funds for education instead of relying a lot on the government.
ACT National Vice-Chairperson Benjie Valbuena said the amount is definitely not enough to respond to the critical shortages of school input. He said the country’s public schools lack 93,000 teachers, 150 classrooms, 13.25 million chairs and 151,000 water lines and sanitation facilities.
ACT national council member and a Davao City public school teacher Ellenito Escalante said that in their area, around 80 pupils are jam-packed in one classroom.
But he said this is nothing to what he saw in the National capital Region where a classroom is being occupied by over 100 students. 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 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 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, urging them to break the culture of silence. “It is time for us to be heard,” she said, explaining that while the government is implementing education programs that only cause headaches, it is the teachers who carry the burden amidst low salaries.
“The teachers are experiencing hardships due to heavy work load and low salary; their dignity are degraded. There are painful realities such as their being heavily indebted and forced to pawn their ATM cards),” said Manalo.
“The teachers should unite and fight for their rights and welfare,” Manalo said. She suggested to press ahead with the struggle for salary upgrade of public mentors so they can 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 every year on the same day when the education budget is being deliberated in congress. She said this will continue for years until the state truly prioritizes education.