THE Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) has slammed the Department of Education (DepED) for alleged lack of health protection mechanisms amid the increasing number of COVID-19 infected personnel .
ACT said that compared to Rep. Jocelyn Sy Limkaichong’s sharing of DepEd report on 2,193 COVID positive cases among its employees in yesterday’s budget hearing with the agency’s data of 526 infected personnel last August 23, it would reveal that the number of cases among teaching and non-teaching staff increased by an alarming 316% in less than two months.
“The rapid spread of infection among our teachers and staff brings alarm and anguish among our ranks. We feel the seriousness of our vulnerability with the lack of health screening and mass testing while we were obliged to report to school for module distribution and other duties,” said ACT Secretary General Raymond Basilio.
Basilio added that their office received reports of schools in Region III, NCR and V being temporarily locked down as personnel/s or parents who have gone to school later tested positive for COVID-19.
“This after-the-fact steps of locking schools down and putting those exposed in quarantine does not solve the repeated problem of letting the virus enter the school premises in the first place. What we need is to have all our teachers and employees undergo health screening, test the possible patients, and fortify school preventive measures and implementation of minimum health standards,” Basilio explained.
“The DepEd does not take on any accountability to its own employees who were infected. They were conveniently referred to local government units and left on their own. They worry about where to isolate themselves, anxious that they will incur salary deductions if they do not get well in 14 days, and support their own treatment costs that are not covered by Philhealth. Even in death, the most the agency does is order for pass-the-hat, which co-workers really do with no prodding needed,” claimed Basilio.
Basilio demanded for health benefits for teachers, to include sick leave, and free medical check up and treatment, as provided by the 1966 Magna Carta for Public School Teachers.
He stressed that protecting the education frontliners comes at a cost, which the government should shoulder as their employer and in recognition of the teachers’ vital role in nation-building. He called for the incorporation of sufficient funding for school preventive measures and health protection of teachers and employees in the 2021 budget.