Commemoration of World Teachers Day
Tomorrow, October 5, all nations all over the world will observe World Teachers’ Day. This date has been chosen to commemorate October 5, 1966 when UNESCO and International Labor Organization adopted an important document known as the Recommendation Concerning the Status of Teachers. It is a landmark document establishing international minimum standards protecting the rights and welfare of public school teachers worldwide. This served as the inspiration for our own Republic Act 4670, or The Magna Carta for Public School Teachers.
Last month, some of us in this Chamber were approached by public school teachers and had been given a simple token: a piece of chalk bearing a simple request—“P2,000 Chalk Allowance para sa mga Guro ng Bayan: Ibigay Na, Ngayon Na!” Outside these walls, teachers taught their pupils on September 16 without using chalk, dramatizing their justified appeal in a National Chalk Holiday.
The campaign of our teachers for a higher cash allowance represents only one facet of their struggle for just wages and benefits, humane working conditions, and for nationalist, scientific, and democratic education. They call for a greater budgetary priority to education, through more significant subsidies for MOOE, personal services, and capital outlay in all levels of education, among others. They appeal for security of tenure and just working conditions of work, for the regularization of volunteer and contractual teachers and for the proscription of the policy of precarious employment in the education sector. They call on the government to cease resort to all policies whereby teachers suffer for the shortages due to misplaced priorities of the government and policies whereby they are penalized for inefficiencies and deficiencies in the bureaucracy, particularly with regard to their GSIS benefits.
Aside from the increase of the cash allowance, the so-called “chalk allowance,” to P2,000, the following are the concrete demands of our teachers:
- at least 104,000 new permanent teacher items to answer for the teacher shortage;
- Salary upgrading—Salary Grade 15 for Teacher I and Salary Grade 16 for Instructor I, and P6,000 increase of the base pay of non-teaching personnel;
- Increase of the base productivity pay to P5,000;
- Increase of clothing allowance to P6,000;
- Adequate budget for the Universal Kindergarten Program; and
- P91.5 billion for classrooms and other school facilities, without resorting to Public-Private Partnerships and similar schemes proven in other countries to make the cost of infrastructure more expensive.
President Benigno Aquino says we should all say “Thank you” to our teachers. Whether we expressly thank them or not, our teachers will continue to carry on despite the hardships which come with being a public school teacher in this country, because shaping young minds is their calling. True, they feel great joy when their students or community show appreciation to them for their invaluable efforts and sacrifices. But their joy would even be greater if this society goes beyond words, if the government gives teachers what is just and due them. No appreciation would be greater than a higher priority given to education and its workers, not just formally but substantively through a higher budget.
At this point, the best way of doing that would be the upgrading of the salary of teachers. We all know that, in 2012, next year, will be the final instalment of salary increases as provided for by the so-called Salary Standardization Law 3. What we do not want to happen is a repeat of the bitter experience of teachers and other government employees under the previous administration, the Arroyo administration, when from 2002 to 2007, a period of 6 years, Congress failed to legislate a new round of salary increases thereby effectively eroding their income over a period of six years.
At this point, then, I’m calling on all our colleagues. As early as now, let us begin the study, deliberation, and debate regarding the legislation of a new round of salary increases for government employees starting 2013.
Let us start right now. Let us honor our teachers. Let us give them what is their due.#