MANILA, Philippines – Almost 21 million students return to school Monday, as classes resume in public schools nationwide.
Department of Education data show almost 3,000 schools were affected by Super Typhoon Haiyan or Yolanda in November 2013. Around 2,300 new classrooms are needed, while almost 18,000 of classrooms need repairs. In typhoon-hit areas, thousands of students begin classes in tents and makeshift classrooms. (READ: Back to school for 20.9M public school students)
In Metro Manila alone, 20 schools remain congested. Around 86% of public schools in the metro will hold double shift classes this school year.
Teachers groups, on the other hand, are clamoring for a salary increase for entry-level teachers nationwide from a base pay of around 18,500 to 25,000 pesos.
But Jee Geronimo reports, the education department is embarking on an aggressive recruitment effort to get the best and brightest teachers.
Even teachers get the first day jitters, especially Jessica Candari, who just left 16 years of teaching in a private academy to teach in a public school.
JESSICA CANDARI, FILIPINO TEACHER, SAN FRANCISCO HIGH SCHOOL: Syempre kinakabahan, nervous talaga kasi kaiba dun sa pinanggalingan ko. Number one pagkita ko pagpasok ko, eto pala. Bagong trabaho, so parang nagsisimula ka pa rin. (Of course I felt nervous, because it’s different from the private school I came from. It’s a new job, I’m beginning all over again.)
For nearly two decades, she was happy, even with the little she earned.
Her husband had to work abroad to supplement their income.
But she decided to quit when the school administration changed.
JESSICA CANDARI, FILIPINO TEACHER, SAN FRANCISCO HIGH SCHOOL: Bakit ako lumipat? Ang number one, actually, yun yung laging sinasabi ko sa sarili ko. Kapag ‘di na ako masaya sa isang lugar, aalis na ako. (Why did I leave? The number one reason I keep telling myself is that if I’m not happy anymore, I have to leave.)
Jessica is one of more than 33,000 new teachers in public schools this year, and among the brightest hired by the education department.
Education Assistant Secretary Jesus Mateo says they look beyond the license when hiring qualified teachers.
JESUS MATEO, ASSISTANT SECRETARY, DEPED ZAMBOANGA CITY: Ang tanong ngayon, sino dun sa may lisensya ang naangkop doon sa ating paaralan? (The question now is, who of those with licenses are appropriate for our schools?)
Once hired, the department makes sure they are well-compensated.
A United Nations agency says providing quality incentives will not only motivate teachers, it will also help improve the quality of education.
Jessica is still adjusting to her new environment.
JESSICA CANDARI, FILIPINO TEACHER, SAN FRANCISCO HIGH SCHOOL: Kakayanin ko ba ‘to? Pero nakita ko naman very supportive yung head teacher ko tsaka yung principal so siguro matutulungan din nila ako. (Can I do this? But the head teacher and the principal are very supportive, so I think they can help me out.)
Yet what she is most excited about is not the bigger salary, but the new faces and the new stories.
Jee Geronimo, Rappler, Manila.