DAVAO CITY – Teachers slammed the failure of the government’s decongestion program for public schools.

“The government has not solved the shortages of classrooms, books and most of all, teachers, ” said Elenito Escalante of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers Davao City.

In a speech last February, President Benigno Simeon Aquino said the government has already completed 66,813 “backlog” classrooms and 62 million book shortage.

Escalante said that policies such as the 3-day school week and dividing classes into two shifts per day “showed that classrooms and teachers are not sufficient.”

For taxi driver Luis Sexcion, the class shifting is “just a way to accommodate all students.”

Luis’s two children, aged seven and nine, both go to school in shifts in Magallanes Elementary School.

“They both attend in the afternoon. When I was in grade school, even though we had classes whole day, I did not get good grades. How much more in shorter class days?” he said.

He also belied claims that each pupil owns textbooks saying, that “my children are using  recycled books from their older cousins who attended private schools.”

He also complained about paying a total of P2000 for contributions, saying “it is not really true that public (education) is free.”

“Gibayaran nalang para walay samok, wala ko kabalo unsa toy gibayran (I had paid to avoid hassles, although it was not clear to me what I paid for),” he said.

In Kapitan Tomas Monteverde Elementary School, the total size of students grew from 4,300 to 4,800.

A grade 3 class in one shift was 43 last year; right now it’s 50.

The kindergarten class in the school has not yet started as there is only one teacher for 800 pupils.

Kris Mae Bernales, a kindergarten teacher, said the school is still on the process of solving the problem.

“The school is also yet to decide whether to accept late enrollees for kindergarten,” she said.

Escalante said kindergarten teachers are mostly volunteers and are paid lower than regular teachers.

“How can we hire teachers if they are earning wages that are not even enough for them to enroll their own kids to school?” Escalante said.

Department of Education Secretary Armin Luistro said in news reports that they “welcome” the call of teachers for an increase in their salaries but “any changes will be for 2015” as this year’s budget has already been “set.”

However, Escalante is not convinced of the secretary’s statement.

“How come they say there is no budget but there are talks of a textbook scam involving billions of pesos,” said Escalante.

Escalante and teachers from different public schools and youth group Anakbayan lit a candle last Monday to join the nationwide call to increase their salary grades.

The teachers also called for President Benigno Simeon Aquino to certify as urgent House Bill 245 by ACT Partylist.

The house bill demands to increase the minimum salaries of public school teachers in the elementary schools from P18, 549 to P25, 000 and for non-teaching personnel from P9, 000 to P15, 000. (With reports from Ace R. Moradante)

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