/ 13 August 2020

A TEACHERS’ group scored the Department of Education for being ‘blind and deaf’ to the plight of teachers, saying the agency is ready to open classes but is ‘unwilling’ to protect teachers from the coronavirus disease.

“The Department of Education has reiterated that the system is ready for the opening of classes on August 24, ignoring calls from all quarters that the situation in the field proves otherwise,” Benjo Basas, national chairperson of Teachers’ Dignity Coalition, said in a statement.

The DepEd, Basas said, seems so fixated with its belief that the only way to deliver education during this pandemic is through formal opening of classes that they do not hear the clamor to fix the problems first.

“The non-access to internet facilities for many of our families and the non-reliability of connection for those who have it. Less than two weeks before the scheduled opening, the plan for TV and radio-based instructions remains a plan. And the modules which will be the main form of learning are yet to be delivered, in some cases in fact, teachers are asking for donations to buy materials or spend their own money to make things possible,” Basas said.

But the most striking message for teachers is the fact that the education department “has no plan to save us from the deadly disease,” the TDC head noted.

A few days ago, the group formally sent the following questions to the Office of the Secretary:

hat is the extent of Covid9 infection in the DepEd so far?

What will be the available form of assistance for teachers and personnel infected with virus?

How will the DepEd deal with the field officials requiring their teachers and personnel to report physically despite the work from home default set-up under its own rules?

But up to now, Basas said they have not heard any reply from the DepEd to any of these questions.

“They said, however, that there is no money for treatment of teachers if ever they contract the disease, a statement that further made our teachers anxious,” he said.

He added the education department “should reflect on its plans and statements”.

“If they can never assure that they will care for the teachers, how could they assure that the system is ready for the resumption of classes?,” Basas asked.

“We take the case of one of our colleagues, Mr. Ildefonso ‘Nono’ Enguerra III of Roxas High School in Manila for example. He tested positive for Covid19 last month, a few days after he and some 30 co-teachers were asked to report physically to school for a meeting. He is still in isolation but said that he is recovering, four other co-workers were infected. The DepEd, unfortunately did not provide help— financially or in any form, aside from the promised voluntary personal contributions from some officials,” he added.

The group believes official data from the DepEd will help them analyze the situation and take necessary steps, like the allocation of supplemental budget or a policy change.

“This too will be necessary when we seek for the accountability of DepEd officials—both from the field and from the central office,” Basas said.

“One thing is certain, the DepEd is not ready for the distance learning modality but willing to expose its teachers to the deadly virus,” he added.

The DepEd has said that there is no specific budget to shoulder the medication of teachers and personnel who contracted the disease while doing tasks in schools.

“Medication and treatment funding for Covid19 are not present or appropriated in the existing budget of DepEd. And I think it is true for all national government agencies,” DepEd Undersecretary Annalyn Sevilla said.

“What has been allowed to be charged to DepEd funds are the supplies needed for the compliance with the minimum health standards,” Sevilla added.

Sevilla said what they have in the policy of the department now is the referral system between DepEd and the Department of Health or the local government units.

“This is the practice we have now and it has worked with DOH/LGUs. For those employees who opted to be treated in private hospitals, they also got assistance from DepEd but not from the government funds but from the personal contributions and collective efforts of the DepEd family,” she explained.