Senator Win Gatchalian is urging the Department of Education (DepEd) to give teachers and non-teaching staff assurance in terms of their health care needs, including the cost of their treatment, should they test positive for CoViD-19 when they start distributing self-learning modules (SLMs) for the opening of classes.
Since teachers and personnel are crucial in the roll-out of the Basic Education-Learning Continuity Plan (BE-LCP), Gatchalian said in a Senate panel hearing that it is important for DepEd to inspire confidence to the teachers and other school personnel so they can give their full cooperation and enthusiasm to operationalize distance learning.
Gatchalian added that part of the uncertainties that school personnel are looking at is the lack of transport services in case some areas will remain under stricter quarantine measures. Metro Manila and nearby provinces, for instance, reverted to Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ) due to the spike in CoViD-19 cases.
“We cannot force teachers to distribute learning modules without giving them assurance on their health and safety concerns. Without assurance, there will be no confidence and without confidence, all of these plans will fail,” said the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture, emphasizing that teachers are part of the success of the LCP.
DepEd officials revealed during its “national readiness” launch that the agency’s 2020 budget does not cover COVID-19 medication, treatment, or hospitalization of teachers and non-teaching staff. DepEd Undersecretary for Finance Annalyn Sevilla explained in Wednesday’s Senate hearing that like other government employees, teachers and non-teaching staff are covered by the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth).
Gatchalian also found out during the hearing that some DepEd employees have been making personal contributions to help with the cost of their colleagues’ treatment. Although it has been clarified by DepEd officials that they have already collaborated with local government units (LGUs) and the Department of Health (DOH) to put up a referral system for employees needing care and monitoring since the use of DepEd funds is allowed to secure supplies needed in compliance with minimum health standards.
DepEd officials said there are 598 cumulative cases of COVID-19 from different regions and divisions, while 11 cases are from the Central Office. These figures, however, need to be validated by the DepEd’s COVID-19 Task Force.
Though Gatchalian acknowledged that DepEd’s approximately 900,000 teachers and personnel are covered by PhilHealth when it comes to CoViD-19-related cases, he also emphasized the need for a stronger collaboration with the state-run health insurer for faster provision of health care services.
The government has recently moved the opening of classes to October 5 from August 24 to fine-tune all aspects of the Basic-Education Learning Continuity Plan (BE-LCP), including the welfare of the teachers, non-teaching staff, learners, and their parents.