We are glad to hear the clarification from the Commission on Higher Education that indeed it is upon the discretion of the governing board of colleges and universities to approve the date of the opening of classes in accordance with the school calendar that fits best the context and planned activities of the schools, with a view to ensure the preparedness, capacity development, and health and protection of the principal stakeholders, the students.
We continue to raise our concern, however, for the teachers and staff in the private institutions. While our counterpart in the government institutions have been assured of their salaries and employment, our members are not as fortunate, being at the receiving end of the impact of the pandemic because of the no work, no pay scheme, impaired distribution system of financial assistance to teachers and staff in the form of the Social Amelioration Program, and the constant threat of displacement and retrenchment since school owners made the distress call on the low turnout of enrollment in private schools.
We admire the confidence of the private schools to assure the government of their preparedness to open the schools even at the basic education level. We thank them for their concern for their faculty and staff whose livelihoods depend on the operations of the schools.
Being the frontliners of the educational institutions, we appreciate the government's support in the form of vouchers to subsidize the tuition and other fees charged by private schools, since the implementation of the K to 12 law.
But we reiterate that any further financial assistance to private schools as they sound off their condition at present, should be tied to the commitment to protect labor and ensure the participation of the teachers and staff in crucial decisions that affect their lives and livelihood.
We protest any move to use the pandemic crisis as a justification of school owners to resort to lay-off, redundancy, early retirement, and worst of all, retrenchment or termination to get rid of the teachers and the staff, as the picture of low enrollment may not actually lead to significant losses or closure of schools decried by the school owners through their legal counsel.
It is painful and frustrating that when a crisis arises, the teachers who serve as front liners in the school are the first ones shown the exit door. Even if the Labor Code and jurisprudence have repeatedly reminded businesses that all ways and means must be exhausted before any decision to sever the employment of workers is arrived at, we usually take the brunt because we are the first to let go, and similar to what happened during the drafting and implementation of the K to 12 law, we are used as a means to cut down on expenses, even when we could be called on to be partners and stakeholders in addressing the challenges to educational institutions.
TESDA Board Member (Labor Sector)
Faculty Member, University of Santo Tomas Manila, Philippines
JONATHAN MARK TE
JOVY F. CUADRA
EDGAR G. VILLAN
University of San Carlos
Vice President, College Faculty Independent Union
University of San Carlos (Downtown Campus)
NITA GAVIOLA DIZON
and Allied Workers Union
EDGAR B. GARNACE
President, Faculty Association of DSLUD, Inc.
Dasmarinas City, Cavite