Problems, Woes Top Teachers’ Agenda At National Assembly In Philippines

December 12, 2007 at 7:01 pm | Posted in 1 | Leave a comment

QUEZON CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Dec. 12, 2007) – Each day about 3,000 Filipinos leave the country to work overseas. And many of these migrant workers are young women educators seeking greener pastures abroad, leaving the country with a shortage of talent and a worsening education crisis.

This continued outmigration of teachers is one of the critical issues that will be addressed in the first National Assembly of basic education sector teachers with the theme “Women and Young Educators Uniting Towards Achieving Transformative and Liberating Education” to be held on December 15-16 at the Occupational Safety and Health Center in Quezon City.
Organized by the Public Services Labor Independent Confederation (PSLINK), a national Confederation of government employees and their unions and associations, in collaboration with the International Labor Organization (ILO), the event will gather 100 union leaders representing 250,000 public elementary and high school teachers from all over the Philippines to discuss pressing concerns of women educators and ways to improve basic education outcomes.

Teachers are among the skilled workers that have joined the exodus of OFWs leaving for abroad due to the lure of higher pay. Attracting and retaining competent public school teachers remains a huge problem in the country when teachers here are overworked but underpaid.

A public school teacher here only gets around $200-$400 a month while a Filipino teacher in the US can earn $4000 or more. Low-paying jobs, deplorable working conditions and lack of opportunities in the country also drive some teachers to become domestic workers or caregivers just so they can work abroad.

“Decent work and pay for educators are keys to achieving quality education,” Dante Arienza, Deputy-General Secretary of the PSLINK, told the Mindanao Examiner.

“However, it is easy for the government to forget about us teachers. Decades after the enactment of the Magna Carta for Public School Teachers, many of its provisions have still not been enforced. Every elections we risk life and limb to serve as inspectors and canvassers and yet many of us have not been paid yet for our services. The government really just considers us as slaves.”

“It is no wonder then that many teachers go abroad. It is truly depressing to see our best teachers becoming domestic workers in other countries instead of training the minds of our youth today.It is even more depressing to know that these teachers would not have left had they been accorded what is due them,” Arienza said.

Amid the nation’s education crisis and the unabated migration of many of the country’s most brilliant educators, legislators have increased the budgetary allocation for the Department of Education (DepEd) in the General Appropriations Act for 2008 with the Senate just recently passing on third and final reading the P1.277 trillion national budget.

The Deped topped the list of the budget recipients with P138 billion allocated as follows: P2 billion for the repair of school buildings; P760 million to cover the backlog of classrooms; and P420 million for school seats and P330 million to hire new teachers.

But while the bulk of the national budget goes to education, it remains inadequate to address the problems crippling the education sector.

“The budget may have been increased but it still falls short of addressing the gaps in education. Also, increases do not amount to anything if the administration will not address issues of corruption which diverts funds from public service projects to the pockets of a few greedy individuals,” Arienza said.

Aside from low pay and budget for education, teachers are also disgruntled with the unfair practices of the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS).

Many teachers criticize the GSIS for its excessive deductions, compounded interests on delayed remittances of GSIS premiums, failed computerization program and undue suspension of housing and salary loans.

“It is high time the government reform the GSIS,” said Arienza. “It is certainly unfair that while teachers comprise almost half of the entire bureaucracy which contributes to the GSIS, they are made to suffer all sorts of inconveniences and difficulties because of the gross mismanagement of the state pension fund.”

Teachers in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) were also complaining about non-payment of their salaries the past months and were threatening to stage protests. The ARMM is composed of Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Basilan, Maguindanao and Lanao provinces.

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