A tough breed
It’s National Teachers Month.
To be sure, teachers shape young minds and thus contribute in no small measure to the development of the motherland. And they are generally looked up as far more honorable than politicians. Indeed their calling is among, if not the most, respected of professions in this part of the world.
Sad to say, though, going by the support government lends to improve their lives and service, they are among our country’s least appreciated group of professionals. They toil long hours, prepare lesson plans at home; and make do with a slew of shortages—lack of classrooms, lack of health and sanitation facilities in their schools, and lack of teaching materials and textbooks, to cite a few of the challenges they must contend with at work. In other words, they give so much of themselves, without the public appreciating their sacrifices, and receive one of the lowest salaries among professional groups.
Last year, things got so bad that the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) asked the government to help the teachers. “If the issues hounding the teachers are effectively addressed, they would go a long way in delivering quality education to the students,”
Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, CBCP president, said. “Time and again we would hear stories of teachers going abroad for better pay as caregivers or domestic helpers. We have private school teachers migrating to public schools for higher pay because some private school salaries are so low they cannot even afford to raise a family.”
Add serving as election inspectors to the burdens teachers must carry, for which “they endure long hours without sleep and harassment from watchers of different political parties,” in the words of Buhay Party-List Rep. Lito Atienza—and, if we may add, in many election hotspots, at the risk, or expense, of their lives.
By last June’s count, when the new school year started, there are over 600,000 teachers in public schools alone—more than 400,000 in grade school and some 200,000 in high school—all over the Philippines.
The latest of their worries is the Department of Education’s K-to-12 program. Critics say this new 12-year basic education curriculum in its transition stage will, among other things, displace over 25,000 teaching and nonteaching staff. The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT), which boasts a membership of 120,000 teachers, has called for a suspension of K-to-12. ACT Party-List Rep. Antonio Tinio said K-to-12 will not raise the quality of Philippine education, as intended, unless the problems facing teachers and students are effectively addressed first.
Indeed, teachers deserve full and concrete government support in their critical role in nation-building, not only public recognition. We may not have the necessary number of teachers but we do not lack for teachers who go above and beyond the call of duty to effect meaningful changes in the lives of their young charges.
Last year’s Ramon Magsaysay awardees included a Filipino teacher, Randy Halasan, who was honored “for nurturing his Matigsalug [tribe] students and their community to transform their lives through quality education and sustainable livelihoods.”
The awardees of the 2015 Metrobank Foundation Outstanding Teachers are great examples of teachers, in the public and private sectors, who inspire, who go the extra mile to make learning easier for the disadvantaged, who toil long hours for a pittance.
Like Analyn V. Salvador-Amores from the University of the Philippines Baguio, who fights for the welfare of the Isinay tribe. “Dialogues are carried out with mutual respect and tolerance of diverse opinions,” Amores told Inquirer columnist Dr. Queena Lee-Chua.
Like Thomas Edison E. de la Cruz from the University of Santo Tomas, who started the Teacher Enrichment Activity in Microbiology-Mentoring Our Mentors (TEAM MOM) project. “Our country needs scientists who are also educators,” he said.
In terrible conditions and despite the seeming apathy of our leaders to their working and living conditions, the teachers among us continue to do their part in inspiring young Filipinos to pursue a brighter tomorrow. Why do we treat so important a resource so shabbily?
We hope that our support for our teachers go beyond the end of National Teachers Month.
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