Public school teachers in Cebu not only have to contend with low pay and backbreaking work – they are forced to make do in their classrooms, in many instances spending their own money on their students’ needs. Worse, the Department of Education frowns upon these teachers’ efforts to organize themselves and improve their plight.
By RITCHE T. SALGADO
CEBU CITY — Maria Valencia has been teaching in one of Cebu’s public high schools for 20 years.
Her routine includes waking up at four in the morning so that she would be on time for her 6 a.m. class. By around 10 a.m. she takes a break to have her lunch, which would only last for 30 minutes because she would need to make sure that she’d be able to punch-in her biometrics on time, lest she get a substantial deduction from her meager salary. After class she stays for three or more hours to fulfill her advisory tasks, check on the class’s school work, and review for the next day’s lessons.
Even at home, Maria, who requested anonymity for this story, barely finds time for her family because there are projects that she would need to finish for her class the next day, or activities to prepare for an upcoming school event. Aside from that, Maria has taken it upon herself to spend for the things that are needed by her class like folders, bond paper, illustration board and, at times, even snacks for her students should she require them to stay beyond school hours. And because not all of her students could afford proper school materials, she sometimes finds herself buying for them.
Despite her sacrifices, Maria remains to be one of the lowest-ranking teachers because the school’s principal refuses to sign her appointment paper for a much deserving rank. Opportunities for regional and national level seminars, lectures and other continuing education program of the Department of Education (DepEd), was denied of her because of her affiliation with a progressive teachers’ group.
Worse, she has earned the ire of the school’s principal when she exposed an irregularity and filed a complaint with the Office of the Ombudsman.
Maria’s condition is reflective of the state of the education sector in Cebu and the rest of the country. In most of the country’s public schools, the needs of the teachers had been neglected as corruption slowly crept into the innards of a vital department, as shown by the perennial problem on substandard textbooks and defective school facilities and equipments.
William Alterado, chairman of the Cebu City chapter of the progressive teacher’s organization Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT), said the education sector grieves for the sad state of public school teachers, who are being taken advantage of, being burdened with extra work like serving in the elections, yet are being starved of equitable compensation.
“Because we are underpaid, many teachers have fallen victim to loan sharks,” he said. “Nowadays, even the government-owned Government Service Insurance System (GSIS), which we have come to depend on should we be in dire need of money, have turned against us.”
He revealed that since GSIS president and general manager Winston Garcia took office, many benefits used to be enjoyed by government employees, especially teachers, have been removed. He gave as an example the survivorship claim and other benefits that can be claimed by the surviving family of a deceased government worker.