Today, Oct. 5, is World Teacher’s Day (WTD). This global celebration started 26 years ago, or in 1994, to commemorate the adoption of the 1966 International Labor Organization (ILO)/United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) recommendation concerning the status of teachers — their rights and responsibilities, and the standards for their further education, recruitment, employment, and teaching and learning conditions.
One wonders why it took some time for these two UN agencies to launch this annual celebration that pays homage and gives attention to teachers. Teaching, after all, is popularly considered globally as a “noble profession.”
In 2015, the UN adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a continuation of the Millennium Development Goals, which put quality education as Goal 4. Under the SDG, teachers are recognized as “key to the achievement of the Education 2030 Agenda.”
On the occasion of WTD 2020, representatives of the convening agencies (ILO, Unesco, Unicef, and Education International) made a joint statement thus: “In this crisis, teachers have shown, as they have done so often, great leadership and innovation in ensuring that #LearningNeverStops, that no learner is left behind. Around the world, they have worked individually and collectively to find solutions and create new learning environments for their students to allow education to continue. Their role advising on school reopening plans and supporting students with the return to school is just as important.”Such words may sound uplifting to our teachers, especially in these trying times of the pandemic.
Yet, these words ring empty for many teachers here in our part of the world.
Teachers remain multitasked and multiburdened — at home and in school. Yet they are the ones with the lowest pay among the country’s professionals. Policemen and soldiers earn much more, and even get fat allowances. (The latter are also the current favorite recipient of President Duterte’s almost yearly increases in their base salaries.)
Many teachers are hard-pressed to afford a decent laptop that will make conducting classes online easier.
In this time of crisis, teachers are even tasked more: plan their lessons as learning modules; create lessons online, and other possible platforms for children to learn from a distance since face to face classes are not allowed yet. Some older teachers are quite challenged, especially those who are not tech-savvy enough to adapt to facilitating learning over the internet. Topping all these challenges is the lack of internet access among many impoverished communities. In the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region, for example, roughly 5 percent of all communities have access to the internet, and less than 30 percent of schools have stable internet connections.
Other realities compound the above challenges. Many parents in the region are also illiterate, and guiding their children in doing their lessons via the modular approach is just impossible. One community leader told me that in his barangay, children are the ones teaching their parents, not the other way around.
Before COVID-19 changed our lives, I spoke in a forum for kindergarten teachers. During the introduction part, one teacher said her name, with the title of MT 1. With a sheepish grin, she added she has been in this rank for years. So I thought that she enjoys a higher salary compared to having a Teacher 1 rank. But she clarified: I have been an MT 1 (Matagal nang Teacher 1) for a long time, more than 20 years!
Comments to [email protected]
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.