By Alliance of Concerned Teachers
May 20, 2019
QUEZON CITY – As teachers, students and parents troop to public schools today for the first day of Brigada Eskwela, the Alliance of Concerned Teachers said that the program is a ‘manifestation of the degenerating state of basic public education’ and that the National Schools Maintenance Week is a ‘mere band aid solution to the convulsions of the educational system.’
“The concept of ‘bayanihan’ to promote community appreciation and sense of responsibility towards education could have been good if it is not depended on as the alternative to fill in the gaps which the government refuses to address,” said Joselyn Matinez, national chairperson of ACT Philippines.
ACT argued that the approved 2019 budget exposes the government’s lack of vision to improve the fundamental learning environment of students as only P25.7 billion was allocated as Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses for the operations of more than 50,000 basic public schools nationwide. The 2019 General Appropriations Act allotted some P13.2B for the operations of elementary schools; P9.7B for junior high schools; and P2.8B for senior high schools.
“The school operations budget only amounts to a little over P1,000 per student for the whole year. This shall cover expenses in electricity, water, communication, transportation, school-based trainings, supplies and even minor repairs,” explained Martinez.
She pointed out that the allocation, while 12.7% higher than last year’s, will do nothing to upgrade the learning environment in schools as it will only be enough to cover the increase in the cost of operations due to the steep inflation last year, following the implementation of the TRAIN Law.
“The budget is all the indication we need to say that the Duterte government has no plans of saving our public schools from deterioration. With Brigada Eskwela, the state tries to gloss over this neglect by passing over the responsibility to teachers, students, parents and the community,” explained Martinez.
Martinez added that Brigada Eskwela is a great burden and challenge to teachers as they were pressed to raise funds and mobilize people for the maintenance works needed to prepare the classrooms in time for the school opening.
“The teachers know very well the importance of having a conducive environment so that there will be an effective learning process in the classroom. Making this the teachers’ burden, however, is unfair. They are even pressed to solicit for financial and material support which lay them vulnerable against criticisms and allegations of corruption,” lamented Martinez.
ACT maintained that however the Department of Education pursue Brigada Eskwela, ‘it can never and will never effect qualitative improvement in the school’s learning environment.’ The group said that what it can do at most is to ‘pump in the barest essentials just so that the rotting educational system may operate.’