Addressing the concerns of teachers amid uncertainties in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic is the best way to celebrate National Teachers’ Month. For Senator Win Gatchalian, this is the most meaningful way to observe the month-long celebration which culminates on October 5, coinciding with the official school opening.
Gatchalian reiterated that addressing the health care needs of teachers should be a top priority to ensure the successful implementation of the Basic Education Learning Continuity Plan (BE-LCP) under the dire consequences of the coronavirus. According to Gatchalian, teachers should be assured of healthcare support, including coverage for hospitalization, medication, and treatment, should they test positive for COVID-19. Without this assurance, they will lack confidence to perform their duties and the Learning Continuity Plan will fail, the senator warned.
The Department of Education (DepEd) earlier assured that while its 2020 budget does not have allocations for COVID-19 treatment, teachers and non-teaching staff are covered by the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) like all government employees. To ensure that their needs are immediately addressed, however, Gatchalian urged DepEd to formalize a partnership with the state insurer in putting up a “special lane.”
Though DepEd is already in talks with PhilHealth, the Employees’ Compensation Commission (ECC) and the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS), the senator said it is crucial to finalize and roll out these partnerships before the opening of classes. He pointed out that since teachers will be distributing self-learning modules and risking their safety when face-to-face classes resume, they are vulnerable to getting infected with COVID-19.
“Nakita natin ang malasakit nila sa mga estudyante at pagmamahal sa kanilang propesyon. Mayroon pa sa kanilang gumagasta mula sa sariling bulsa upang may maipambili lang ng ilang kagamitan para sa blended learning. Nararapat lamang na magbigay-pugay tayo sa mga guro ngayong National Teachers’ Month,” said Gatchalian, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture.
“Ang mga guro ay parang mga sundalong ipapadala natin sa digmaan. Kung hindi natin sisiguruhin ang kanilang kaligtasan, mawawalan sila ng kumpiyansa at hindi tayo magtatagumpay sa pagpapatupad ng distance learning,” he added.
Latest DepEd figures show (August 23) that 823 DepEd personnel and learners contracted COVID-19, 310 of which are active cases, 23 have died, and 490 have recovered. Out of these cases, 297 are learners, 340 are teachers, and 186 are non-teaching personnel.
Gatchalian also sought the smooth distribution of cash-assistance to displaced teaching and non-teaching personnel from public and private schools, which is mandated under Bayanihan to Recover As One Act or Bayanihan 2.