A story was once told that after WWII, the then Emperor Hirohito of Japan called one of his soldiers and asked the question: “How many teachers survived?” This question is an acknowledgment by the emperor of the crucial role of teachers in building or re-building a nation. Without teachers, a nation can never be built or re-built. This may be is the reason why teachers are said to be the noblest of all professionals.
In the Philippines, teachers are either public school teachers or private school teachers. While the Philippines recognises education as a right of its citizens, it can barely provide for all the needs of basic education and is not financially capacitated to provide free tertiary education for all. For this reason, private schools are part of the educational system. Hence, schools are either public schools, private schools or public private partnerships.
The operation of private schools in the Philippines is dependent on school fees (tuition fee, miscellaneous fee, and other fees). Without these school fees, private schools will not survive. In the same way, the salaries and benefits of teachers and school personnel in private schools are dependent on school fees. For this reason, increase in salaries and benefits of teachers and school personnel in private schools are dependent on the incremental proceeds of the tuition fee increase as mandated by Republic Act No. 6728, otherwise known as “An Act Providing Assistance to Students and Teachers in Private Education and Appropriating Funds Therefore”.
Moreover, teachers in private schools are either tenured/regular teachers or contractual/probationary teachers. In terms of pay, tenured/regular teachers receive their salary and other benefits regularly while contractual/probationary teachers are under the “no work no pay” scheme.
With the global crisis brought about by Covid-19, the Philippine government, just like other governments in the world, ordered the suspension of classes in schools in all levels, public or private, since March 16, 2020, and up to the present, for health and safety reason. With this suspension of classes, private schools throughout the country instituted measures for them to survive as they have no school fees to receive. They reduced cost in operation. Unfortunately, however, even with the instituted measures, many private schools are still looking at closure as they could no longer survive.
Meanwhile, with the situation of private schools, it is estimated that a total of 409,757 teachers and school personnel in private schools are greatly affected.
Initially, the ones greatly affected are the contractual/probationary teachers and school personnel. As they are under the “no work no pay” scheme, they did not receive any salary anymore since March 16, 2020. Fortunately for some of them, due to the generosity of their school owners, they still received their salary up to April 15, 2020 but not beyond that. More fortunately are contractual/probationary teachers and school personnel who are in schools with existing labor unions. Beyond April 15, 2020, they received assistance either financially or in kind as a product of negotiation with school management and the union. In one private school, whose union is affiliated with NATOW, the contractual/probationary teachers and other school personnel received the pro-rated 14th month pay last April 30, 2020, the monetized unused leave in accordance with the CBA last May 15, 2020, basic goods like rice, canned goods, and others last May 30, 2020, and 5 thousand financial assistance last June 15, 2020.
As the suspension of classes continues, the regular/tenured teachers and school personnel start to feel the impact on different levels depending on their school management. Some private school teachers and school personnel started to receive reduced benefits. Some started to receive reduced salaries and benefits. And, right now, some stopped receiving salaries and benefits and their number will increase as days, weeks, and months go by. This shows that to ensure decent working conditions for teachers as well as to guarantee the right to education in times of crisis, it is essential to increase the allocation of funds to education (e.g. through progressive taxation, aid, and increase of domestic resources allocated to education) to develop a solid and sustainable public system.
With this reality, the question is: HOW MANY TEACHERS WILL SURVIVE? May this question be taken by the present government leaders just like how the then emperor of Japan took the question? Or is the question a question in the wilderness?