Teachers’ group: ‘Distance learning moves education farther from poor children’s reach’

Bonz Magsambol
Teachers’ group: ‘Distance learning moves education farther from poor children’s reach’

Rappler.com

The Alliance for Concerned Teachers is also demanding the Department of Education provide teachers with laptops and P1,500 internet allowance per month for the school year 2020-2021

MANILA, Philippines – A teacher’s group said a shift to distance learning due to the pandemic will further disadvantage poor students. (READ: FAST FACTS: DepEd’s distance learning)

Speaking to Rappler in a phone interview on Wednesday, June 10, Alliance for Concerned Teachers (ACT) Secretary General Raymond Basilio expressed concerns regarding the accessibility of students to gadgets and the internet for the distance learning approach. (READ: No student left behind? During pandemic, education ‘only for those who can afford’)

“Ang sabi nga namin ano bang mas mahalaga ang pagbili ng pagkain or pagbili ng load para ma-maintain ang paggmit ng technology?” Basilio said. (Like what we said, what is more important buying food or buying load cards to maintain access to techonology?)

Meanwhile, the Department of Education (DepEd) maintained that lack of access to technology should not be a problem as schools will be providing printed modules for students who don’t have access needed for distance learning. (READ: No need to buy gadgets, printed materials will be given – DepEd)

According to DepEd, printed modules will be delivered to students or picked up by their parents at designated areas within agreed schedules.

On Tuesday, June 9, ACT held a protest in front of DepEd’s central office in Pasig, demanding he department to face the educational crisis brought by the coronavirus pandemic.

ACT said that DepEd’s distance learning programs “move education farther from poor children’s reach, and allow the government to delay or forego building safe schools and resolving the crisis in the Philippine education system.”

“The health and economic crisis has further exposed that quality education has always been the privilege of a few Filipinos. Instead of taking the opportunity to close the many gaps in education access and quality, the government opted to widen it by insisting on opening schools remotely without sufficient preparation and support to its constituents – disregarding the still raging pandemic and the worsening socio-economic crisis suffered largely by millions of impoverished families,” Basilio said. 

Internet allowance to teachers

While public school teachers would receive P3,500 cash allowance this June, Basilio said this amount is not enough for the teacher’s need for internet access for the whole school year. 

“Ang mga teachers natin engaged sa pagtawag at pag o-online. Saan sila kukuha ng pang load sa internet? Mga biktima din sila ng pandemya,” Basilio said. 

(Our teachers are engaged in calling and staying online. Where do they get money to buy load for internet access? They are also victims of this pandemic.)

DepEd earlier issued the guidelines for eligible public school teachers nationwide who will receive a P3,500 cash allowance for this school year.

The DepEd order said that the allowance “shall cover the expenses of teachers for the purchase of teaching supplies and materials, tangible or intangible, for the implementation or conduct of various modes of learning delivery.” 

ACT was asking DepEd to provide teachers with P1,500 internet allowance per month. 

PROVIDE LAPTOPS. The group demands DepEd to face the heightening crisis in the educational system brought by the pandemic. Photo by Darren Langit/Rappler

The group also asked DepEd to provide teachers with laptops. 

Last May, Undersecretary Alain Pascua said the DepEd would need P27 billion in funding to provide each teacher with a laptop. 

“About P27 billion is needed to make that dream a reality,” Pacua said. 

Pascua added: “How I wish we have the funds and that we can do it before August 24.”

Opposition to distance learning

Just like many parents, President Rodrigo Duterte himself is doubtful that the country is ready for the distance learning approach.

In a recorded address aired on Friday, June 5, Duterte reiterated his earlier statement that there should be no classes until a COVID-19 vaccine is developed. (READ: ‘Bakuna muna’: Duterte rejects August opening of classes)

The President also expressed doubts about the country’s capability to implement DepEd Secretary Leonor Briones‘ idea. (READ: Distance learning: A looming crisis for students with special needs)

“We are talking of students here, it’s millions. Mayroon ba siya? (Does she have?) But if she has or if we can afford it, we’ll buy it and she can proceed with her novel idea of how the children can continue with their education,” he added.

On June 3, Teacher’s Dignity Coalition said that while a face-to-face setup for learning is out of the equation for now, delaying the opening of classes from August 24 to a later date would give them more time to prepare.

Despite calls for delaying classes, Briones said their preparation for distance learning approach is “underway” so classes can start on August 24. – Rappler.com

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Bonz Magsambol

Bonz Magsambol is a multimedia reporter for Rappler, covering health, education, and social welfare. He first joined Rappler as a social media producer in 2016.