• SONAsan ang respeto para sa mga guro?

    1

    I DIDN’T expect much from the President’s last State of the Nation Address (SONA), knowing full well how this annual report to the nation is always filled with numbers and self-praise, with questionable connections made between the powers-that-be and the poorest-of-the-poor.

    Specifically for this President, the SONA has always been an opportunity to blame the past government and hit back at his critics, while at the same time doing the humble-brag like no other President, shifting from look at me! I did this! To: I wouldn’t have been able to do it without you, mga boss.

    The rhetoric is empty at this point, the numbers even more so. Because the nation is not made up of numbers, neither is it a matter of pinpointing one poor person out of thousands, putting a camera on her, and asking her how life is. Is it better?

    Of course she’ll say yes. And smile through her poverty, too. In this country, even those stuck on their roofs after a storm due to the flood will wave and smile at a camera. We live through the worst things. We smile through them, too.

    No salary increase
    If there was one thing that I absolutely abhorred hearing during the President’s SONA, it was the kind of narrative he created about education.

    And it’s not because he failed to deliver on Dep Ed Secretary Brother Armin Luistro’s feeler of a wage increase for all teachers. What does one expect of a government that has not honored the Salary Standardization Law (SSL)? The SSL, “which was fully implemented in 2012, to earmark a certain portion of the national budget for automatic annual salary increases,” (Bulatlat.com, 25 Feb 2015) has not been reviewed by this government for the past three years. According to ACT Teachers Partylist Representative Antonio Tinio this review is a pre-condition for government’s pay increases.

    But most offensive about PNoy’s assessment of education in his SONA was how he imagined that what teachers, students, parents deserved to hear were numbers.

    “Sa sektor naman po ng edukasyon: Sinisiguro nating napupunuan ang mga pagkukulang ng nakaraan, natutugunan ang mga pangangailangang dumarating sa kasalukuyan, at napaghahandaan pati ang para sa kinabukasan,” the President began.

    And one couldn’t help but wonder how the failure of the past, the needs in the present, and the preparation for the future does not include giving our teachers decent and humane pay.

    Chairs and classrooms
    After the President declared that in the first two years of his government they were able to fill in the gaps and backlog left by the previous administration, what we were treated to were numbers.

    “Sa estimasyon ng DepEd, mula 2010 hanggang 2017, ang kabuuang bilang ng madaragdag na estudyante: 4.7 million. Bunsod po ito ng pagdami ng enrollees at pagpapatupad natin ng K to 12. Para matugunan ito, kailangan nating magdagdag ng tinatayang 118,000 classrooms. 33,608 dito, naipatayo na. Ngayong taon, nakasalang na ang pagpapagawa ng mahigit 41,000. Ang natitirang 43,000, nakapaloob na sa ipapasang 2016 budget bukas.”

    So they’ve built classrooms, and will continue to build classrooms, until they can house 4.7 million additional students. But what kinds of classrooms are these exactly, and where are they building these?

    Going around Eastern Samar early this year, from Guiuan to Alang-Alang, Tacloban to Palo, I saw that the classrooms that were housing student-survivors of the storm were too small to even fit class sizes of 40 and above – which is normal for our public schools. Toilets were few, if functional ones existed at all. The better-constructed school buildings were built by non-government organizations (NGOs) and foundations; NOT by government.

    One would imagine that with 33,608 classrooms built so far the government will have already built in the neediest of our communities, including survivor communities in post-Haiyan. One also can’t help but imagine thousands of new classrooms yes, with all new chairs, yes.

    But also the next image is that of students crammed into that room like sardines, the teacher with barely any space to move in front of the classroom, the students without any space to breathe.

    Because if classrooms were actually being built within standard, of actually counting the quadrants of the classroom, where teachers can walk down three aisles, and the front and back of the class, where students can freely move within their seats without hitting their seatmates, don’t you think government would be showing those classrooms on its AVPs for all of the world to see?

    “Ngayong 2015 din, naihatid na sa mga paaralan ang 1.6 million na upuan, na daragdagan pa uli ng 1.6 million bago matapos ang taon. Sa budget na isusumite natin para sa 2016; nakalagay na ang pondo para sa dagdag <…> na 4.4 million na upuan.”

    One can’t believe we are celebrating the number of chairs that government has provided our public schools. Is this not a basic right of every Filipino? The right to free and quality education? Including, but not limited to correctly-sized classrooms that are conducive to learning, and school chairs to sit on?

    But no. For this government, every classroom, every chair, is a gift that it bequeaths, an achievement in itself.

    Counting textbooks, teachers
    “Ayon nga po kay Bro. Armin, ang suma-tutal ng naipagawa nating mga classroom at na-hire na guro ay higit pa sa pinagsama-samang nagawa mula sa nakalipas na 20 taon bago tayo manungkulan.

    “Naipamahagi na natin ang karagdagang 73.9 million textbooks, na susundan pa ng 88.7 million ngayong taon.”

    How exciting! These are the Dep Ed textbooks that have been questioned by experts? The ones that are factually incorrect, historically skewed, and badly written? These are the textbooks that one cannot believe were written for “quality” education? The textbooks that are supposed to change the face of education, in the same way that the K to 12 program will, no matter how unprepared we all are for it? No matter how many teachers will lose their jobs because of it?

    Speaking of teachers, the President also takes credit for hiring teachers: “Tinatayang 130,000 naman ang kailangan nating guro. Nitong 2014, ang na-hire na ay 29,444. Ngayong taon, ang kabubuang bilang ng guro na target nating ma-hire: 39,000. Ang natitira pang 60,000, nakapaloob na sa panukalang 2016 budget.”

    So they hire teachers, and then what? And then watch as the untenured, younger ones are disenfranchised by the K to 12 program? Or watch as they suffer with salaries that are not enough to cover basic living expenses, or see teachers through medical conditions and ailments, or allow them to fend for their families.

    Ah, but teachers apparently matter the least. Maybe because you cannot put a number on their contributions to the educational system, maybe because you cannot measure how they are the lifeblood of that new classroom with new chairs, and with students holding new textbooks.

    This is the thing with this President’s last SONA: it decided to talk about education in terms of numbers, and failed at actually working with compassion and kindness. It spoke about the educational system as if it is not made up of human beings, because according to the SONA, it is made up of nothing but numbers.

    Numbers have never been so meaningless.

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    1 Comment

    1. mikhail hieronymus on

      Maybe or in fact, Pnoy doesn’t have any meaningful achievement to present to the people. So to make it more interesting, he filled his Sona message with needless items that confuse his audience.

      I remember in high school, if we do not know the answer or the topic at the exam, we just write meaningless answer, just to fill our test papers. Every student does this.