Senators have proposed that teachers be provided with allowance for Internet connection and laptops to unburden them of the extra expense with the shift to online learning in the coming academic year.
Sen. Grace Poe has filed Senate Resolution No. 456 urging the government to grant Internet allowance to public elementary and secondary school teachers for the duration of the online classes which will be the new learning mode to curb the spread of Covid-19.
Poe said the P3,500 one-time cash assistance proposed by the Department of Education (DepEd), converted from the teachers’ existing chalk allowance, is not enough to sustain their connectivity needs throughout the period of online classes.
“Kung dati, chalk ang binibili ng ating mga guro, ngayon, load na. ‘Di hamak na mas mahal ‘yun,” Poe said.
Poe also proposed that arrangements be made by DepEd to allow teachers to avail of discounts for their Internet load to get them through their obligations for the online education.
“The government should ensure that teachers who are in charge of the noble task of shaping the minds of the next generation are given assistance and support commensurate to their vital role,” Poe said.
“It is high time for the government to provide additional allowance to teachers to upgrade their digital access and technological capacity and ensure that they are well-equipped to continually assure quality education to their students in this time of pandemic,” Poe underscored.
Citing a proposal from teachers’ group that pitched for a P1,500 a month Internet allowance, Poe said providing the amount to the 857,000 teachers under DepEd will cost around P1.285 billion per month or P12.855 billion for 10 months.
According to Poe, this is only four percent the total of $6.4 billion loans incurred by the government to support the Covid-19 response efforts.
The lawmaker said scenes of teachers climbing mountains, crossing rivers, or sitting along the highways just to get a signal should not be part of our online education system under the new normal.
“Their dedication and hard work to mold our youth should be matched by crucial infrastructure to make learning effective,” Poe said.
Aside from Internet connection, Sen. Risa Hontiveros also asked the DepEd to provide laptops or Internet-capable devices to public school teachers if it plans to push through with the opening of classes on August 24 this year.
“Huwag nating piliting gumastos ang mga guro para makapagturo,” Hontiveros said in a statement after DepEd’s announcement of “blended-learning” classes in which both students and teachers rely on various technologies such as online classes, and television and radio stations.
“Responsibilidad at gastos dapat ng DepEd ang mga ito,” Hontiveros said, pointing out that teachers have been requesting DepEd to provide for these requirements.
She also questioned DepEd’s proposal to have teachers enter into loans with the Government Insurance Service System (GSIS) for laptops worth P20,000.00 or less. The payment of these loans will be debited from the teachers’ salaries.
“This is a non-solution that is grossly unfair and impractical. DepEd should find ways to provide for these laptops and allowance for free. Imbes na pautang, dapat libreng suporta,” she said. “Yung mga sundalo ba natin, pinagbabayad ba natin sila para sa baril nila?” Hontiveros pointed out.
Instead, Hontiveros said that the Special Education Fund (SEF) provided to LGUs could be utilized to provide Wi-Fi allowances to teachers and to loan necessary equipment to them for free. She said DepEd must refine its coordination with LGUs to effectively and efficiently utilize the SEF to respond to the needs of teachers.
The senator also appealed to DepEd to review the agency’s preparedness to resume classes in August. “There shouldn’t be a ‘race to August’. Failure to properly execute education plans will further widen our inequality gap,” Hontiveros explained.
“We have a long way to go in terms of the availability, affordability and reliability of Internet access for the overwhelming majority of our teachers. That is part of our work plan at the Senate,” she said. “DepEd must ensure that teachers and students are synchronized with each other for these changes to be effective.”