/ 12 May 2021

THE ALLIANCE of Concerned Teachers reiterated its call on the government to increase the budget of the education sector amid the pandemic.

ACT said the government can augment the budget for education by realigning resources from “non-essential” items in the 2021 General Appropriation Act and through the provision of supplemental funds.

It reported that 95 percent of teachers from the National Capital Region and 81 percent from other regions said their students continue to face problems on distance learning because of the cost of gadgets and poor internet connectivity.

“Majority of our students come from low-income households, or those most hit in the economic recession brought about by the pandemic. Some belong in homes that house two to three families, with only one or two gadgets shared by multiple learners. Many lost their source/s of income. The government is essentially forcing these families to choose between putting food on the table and ensuring their children’s education, as they reel from the various effects of a bungled pandemic handling,” ACT Secretary General Raymond Basilio said.

ACT pressed its demand for an additional P13.33 billion education budget that will cover the provision of tablets and 10GB monthly data for the poorest 5 percent of learners.

ACT said the additional funds “may be easily sourced” from the P19.1-billion budget of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict. The group added that the task force money could provide P1,500 internet allowance for teachers monthly and mobile data provisions to the poorest 5 percent of learners.

“These budgetary needs can likewise be addressed immediately through significant changes to the Bayanihan 3 recently approved by a House panel. Instead of the current version’s allotment of a pitiful P5.6 billion to education, we can tap the lavish provision for military pension now at P54.6 billion which should be more than enough to cover the granting of gadgets and ample internet allowances to both teachers and students,” Basilio said.

“Halfway into the school year and we’re still significantly short of the most basic requisite of distance learning — printed modules. Major factors to this are the delayed production of learning materials from the Central Office and the insufficient funds for module printing. This is a great disservice to millions of learners who are shortchanged in education, and to teachers as well who have been exhausting their means to fill in these shortages,” Basilio said.

Basilio noted that teachers render extra hours of work to create their own materials.

“These perennial shortages in education pose bigger problems now than before the pandemic. The government’s continued refusal to sufficiently address these issues is forcing us to make-do with the blanket imposition of an unsupported distance learning that comes at the cost of the rights and well-being of teachers and students. We shouldn’t be made to pay such price any longer. The Duterte administration must enable the limited conduct of face-to-face classes in low-risk areas with enough safeguards in place,” he said.