Senator Win Gatchalian stressed the need to safeguard the mental health of teachers, especially those who often work extended hours.
Gatchalian called on the Department of Education (DepEd) to address the root cause of teachers’ mental health issues, which he said is often attributed to the heavy workload, after reports of two teachers committing suicide in as many months.
“May nabasa po tayong mga balita na may dalawang teachers na nagpakamatay ‘di umano nitong nakaraang dalawang buwan dahil sa depression dulot ng kanilang mabigat na workload. Kailangan sigurong tiyakin ng DepEd na makatao naman ang workload na ibinibigay nila sa ating mga guro,” he said.
“I am truly in awe of our teachers and amazed at their dedication, especially those who work beyond their required hours, often for very meager pay. It is no secret that our teachers are often overworked. I can only imagine the stress caused by their job – preparing lessons, teaching, and then grading papers, not to mention other non-teaching functions that they are assigned to do,” Gatchalian added.
Gatchalian was referring to the recent reports of two newly-hired teachers from Leyte and Cavite who purportedly committed suicide due to work-related issues.
The lawmaker also urged the Department of Education (DepEd) to utilize guidance counselors not only for school children but for teachers as well.
“Sana ay gamitin din ng DepEd ang kanilang mga guidance counselors hindi lamang upang gabayan ang ating mga mag-aaral ngunit para tulungan din ang ating mga teachers na mag-cope sa kanilang mga trabaho. Hindi lamang mga estudyante ang nangangailangan ng counseling, may mga pagkakataon na kailangan din ito ng ating mga guro,” he said.
Gatchalian previously called for the scrapping of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency’s (PDEA) plan to conduct mandatory drug testing of students, proposing instead that the budget for the drug tests be used to hire more guidance counselors for DepEd.
DepEd requires public and private elementary and high schools to hire one guidance counselor for every 500 students. The Philippines, however, only has 3,220 registered guidance counselors as of July 2017 since the first batch of licensure examinees in 2008.
The neophyte senator said he is mulling filing a bill to modify the qualifications for the guidance counselor licensure examination as provided for in Republic Act No. 9258 or the Guidance and Counseling Act of 2004.
“Sa kasulukuyan kasi para makapag-exam para makakuha ng lisensya, kailangan may master’s degree sa guidance and counseling ang isang aplikante. This may be too stringent and may have deterred guidance counselors from applying for a license,” he said.