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DepEd preparing benefit packages for teachers

Photo: Facebook/DepEd Philippines

The Department of Education (DepEd) announced in a virtual briefing on August 17 that it is preparing different benefit packages for its educators.

The said packages will include an annual physical examination, hazard pay, among other benefits such as an incentive for World Teacher’s Day (WTD) and to cover for COVID-19.

Undersecretary for Finance Annalyn Sevilla noted that the said benefits would be distributed in September, under DepEd’s P400 million benefit. Teachers are also due to receive P1,000 each on WTD on October 5, which is also the same day classes officially open.

Sevilla also said DepEd is in talks with the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS), Employees Compensation Commission, and PhilHealth as a response to the call of various teachers’ groups to provide aid and support for teachers and staff who got infected with COVID-19.

In a press briefing on August 17, DepEd released an official statement that it would be temporarily closing its central office in Pasig City to give way for disinfection and contact tracing. The education bureau said its operations would continue and remain uninterrupted, with all of its staff working from home.

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Teachers’ group outlines urgent measures for “safe, accessible, and quality education”

Photo: Facebook/Alliance of Concerned Teachers-Philippines

Following the announcement of the move of the opening of classes to October 5, the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) called on the Department of Education (DepEd) for changes to deliver “safe, accessible, and quality education” amid the coronavirus disease or COVID-19 pandemic.

ACT Secretary-General Raymond Basilio urged DepEd and the government to use the time to solve many problems surrounding the opening of classes, in a way that would not only safeguard educators’ and students’ health but also fulfill learners’ right to education.

In a Facebook post, the teachers’ group recommended the following urgent measures for the education bureau, such as the sufficient allocation of government funding for learning continuity, ensuring the implementation of health and safety protocols in schools such as health screening and testing of workers, medical personnel in school clinics, sick leaves and hazard pay for teachers, the discontinuation of the use of schools as quarantine facilities, equipping teachers and students with gadgets and Internet connectivity financial support, adequate distribution of printed modules for learners, relaxation of strict assessment tools, and the inclusion of the pandemic as a topic in the educational program.

Pursuant to Republic Act (RA) No. 11480, which gives the President the power to move the date of the opening of classes in the Philippines or in areas during a state of calamity, an amendment was made to Republic Act (RA) No. 7797, which states that classes must open as early as the first Monday of June but no later than the last day of August. Teachers’ groups and several lawmakers have been calling for the education bureau to delay the opening of the school year amid reports of educators not being prepared and being ill-equipped to transition to a blended learning approach.

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DepEd: No basis to give teachers Internet or load allowance for now

Photo: Facebook/DepEd Philippines

According to Department of Education (DepEd) Spokesperson and Undersecretary for Finance Annalyn Sevilla, there is no basis for teachers to receive Internet or load allowance for now.

Educators have been crying for financial support amid the country’s transition to flexible learning for the upcoming school year, which will require them to deliver education remotely and virtually, with the use of gadgets such as laptops, tablets, and/or smartphones.

Sevilla shared that the education bureau is in talks with the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) in order to look into the possible funding to provide teachers with monetary assistance, through “adjustment and policy guidelines”. She also noted that DepEd has already been allotting as much as P3,500 worth of cash allowance, formerly referred to as “Chalk Allowance”, for eligible public school teachers since June 2020.

DepEd has also created a provision to cover the expenses for public school teachers’ supplies to help them adjust to blended learning, with a budget allocation of P3.185 billion. The teacher must have at least one teaching load to qualify for the allowance. Permanent and provisional teachers in public schools and learning centers are also eligible for the cash allowance, provided they have been in service at DepEd since May 31, 2020, and have been assigned at least one teaching load for school year 2020-2021.

Classes were earlier disrupted in March as community quarantines were implemented all over the country due to the COVID-19 pandemic. On July 22, President Rodrigo Duterte approved DepEd’s proposal to do limited face-to-face classes starting in January in areas that are under modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) or have low cases of coronavirus disease or COVID-19.

Under blended learning, DepEd will be adopting the combined use of TV, radio, and the internet as modes of instruction while face-to-face classes will be largely prohibited. Classes are set to formally open on August 24.

During a COVID-19 task force meeting, DepEd Secretary Leonor Briones earlier said that public schools in as many as 345 areas have already conducted dry runs in preparation for the formal start of the 2020 to 2021 school year.

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Teachers infected with COVID-19? DepEd told to strictly implement health protocols

A group of teachers urged the Department of Education (DepEd) to strictly implement health protocols in light of reports that some teachers were infected with COVID-19.

The Teachers’ Dignity Coalition (TDC) over the weekend demanded that DepEd observe the health protocols to protect the health of teachers as it stressed that educators are not exempted from the threat of the virus.

The group said it received information that several teachers who were earlier required to report physically to their schools were eventually tested positive for COVID-19.

“In another report, at least two teachers have observed symptoms a day after reporting to their school and are now both suspected cases in their localities and were put in strict isolation,” said Emmalyn Policarpio, secretary-general of TDC.

 “This pandemic is a serious threat to life and safety of our teachers, thus, the DepEd should take this seriously as well,” she added.

The group again took swipe at the DepEd leadership for not exerting enough effort to minimize the exposure of teachers to the virus by supposedly ignoring reports that many field officials are requiring their teachers to report physically to their school despite an order that work-from-home schemes should be the default set-up.

 “After the Central Office has released an order, several memoranda and clarifications upon clarifications, some field officials still require their teachers to go to school and we never missed to remind the DepEd of this, in many different ways,” Policarpio added.  

The DepEd earlier clarified that it is adopting work-from-home schemes as the default set up. It previously wrote to the TDC to clarify the following:

1.   The work from home (WFH) set-up is the default scheme which will be used especially for teachers whose main task is to facilitate classroom learning, even in areas considered as low-risk;

2.   The physical or on-site reporting is non-mandatory and shall be done in consultation with the personnel involved;

3.   Only those personnel with tasks or functions that cannot be rendered remotely or those in exceptional cases can be considered for physical reporting;

4.   The concerned offices that require physical reporting should provide for transportation services for their employees; and

5.   Physical reporting shall be prohibited for schools that were used as quarantine or isolation facilities.

 “Once and for all, the DepEd Central Office should call the attention of the field officials who require their teachers to report physically, give them a stern warning or take administrative actions against them,” Policarpio said.

The TDC said it has submitted to DepEd a list of schools division offices with reported cases of schools that require physical reporting for their validation.