MANILA, Philippines — Teachers on Tuesday pressed the education department for reimbursements to their communication allowance for online classes under distance learning, which had been in effect due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Alliance of Concerned Teachers in a letter sent to Secretary Leonor Briones cited "an overwhelming number" of complaints from public school teachers across the country for the incomplete or unreleased P300 expense per month, from March to December of last year.
"We implore the agency to be conscious and sensitive of the realities of our teachers who were suddenly thrust in the work-from-home set-up and distance learning modes without the needed technological and logistical support from the government," ACT wrote.
Classes in the Philippines resumed in October after being cut abrupt by the health crisis. But it has largely been held online apart from lessons being aired on TV or radio, and printed modules given to those without the means.
The new learning setup has since birthed to various difficulties for both teachers and students, such as on access to internet, availability of gadgets and errors in resources.
Per DepEd's figures, some two million enrolled in the previous year had opted to skip school in 2020, with many in private school also transferring to public institutions.
"The least the agency can do immediately is to ensure that the teachers benefit from the communication expense reimbursement allowed by the agency order, without making the whole process another burden to them," the teachers' group added.
Reasons preventing teachers to get their reimbursements, ACT said, include non-availability of funds, stringent requirements or no uniform implementation, as well as non-dissemination of DepEd's order for the said expenses.
The department through the said order in November allowed for the reimbursement of communication expenses as the work-from-home setup took place due to the pandemic.
ACT renewed its call for a P1,500-internet allowance for teachers and DepEd employees, which they said is "a crucial input in the delivery of education and related services."
Education officials have yet to comment on the ACT's letter to Briones.
Another group, the Teachers' Dignity Coaliton, had the same plea to DepEd, saying the P300 monthly or only $6, is not enough.
"Natutuwa kami dahil mayroong ilalaang P300 para sa aming nagatos," said Emmalyn Policarpio, TDC secretary general. "Pero sana huwag nang pahirapan sa reimbursement ang mga guro. Maghahanap pa ba kami ng resibo sa loading station o tindahan mula Marso para makakuha niyan?"
(We are glad that there is a P300 funding per month for our expenses. But we hope the reimbursement process would be made easier. Do we have to ask for receipts in loading stations or stores from March to get it?)
The second quarter of the ongoing school year began on January 4, with the fate of resuming in-person classes still hanging on the balance.
President Rodrigo Duterte had earlier allowed DepEd for a pilot run on physical classes, only to take it back due to the threat of the new coronavirus variant.
It remains unclear to date what DepEd's plans are for resuming face-to-face classes, despite claiming that the transmission of the virus is least likely to happen in schools.
The Duterte administration has also admitted that the said learning setup, marred by challenges, is far from ideal.