Monday, May 27, 2019

DepEd wary over mental, professional fitness of teachers

LEYTE. Edgar Tenasas, assistant schools division superintendent in Leyte, answers media inquiries over the death of Emylou Malate, a newly-hired teacher in the upland village school in LaPaz, Leyte. Malate killed herself on July 12 allegedly due to depression. (Ronald O. Reyes)

A TOP education official in Leyte province expressed alarm on Thursday, July 19, over the mental and professional qualifications of public school teachers following the case of 21-year-old multi-grade teacher Emylou Malate, who killed herself inside their house on July 12, less than a month from her first day of service on June 25.

Malate, one of the two newly-hired teachers assigned to an upland primary school in Bagacay village, some five kilometers away from the town proper of La Paz, Leyte, was believed to have committed suicide due to “depression” as narrated by her 62-year-old father Rodolfo in a local police blotter.

While the police declared that Malate’s case was already “closed” and no foul play happened to her, Leyte Assistant Schools Division Superintendent Edgar Tenasas said they had formed a fact-finding team and conducted inquiry into the “sad” incident to shed light on the issue whether the teacher’s death was job-related.

The inquiry was also in response to a viral Facebook post that seeks “justice” to the death of Malate, who belonged to batch 2017 graduates of Leyte Normal University, a top learning institution for the teaching profession in Eastern Visayas based in Tacloban City.

The post claimed that Malate’s teaching load, paper works, work pressure, professional relationship, and working environment, among other various issues besetting the country’s public education system since its inception, became the “major factor” of the suicide incident.

In his media interviews, Tenasas said he respected the airing out of views by the anonymous Facebook poster whom they have already identified but did not disclose it to the public.

According to Tenasas, he personally asked Malate’s co-teacher and close friend Desiree Abordo and their school principal Diomedes Tejome to respond to the “bullying” allegations and both of them denied such statement.

#Breaking: Edgar Tenasas, assistant schools division #superintendent in #Leyte, answers #media inquiries over the death of #EmylouMalate, a newly-hired #teacher in the upland village #school in #LaPaz, Leyte. Malate killed herself on July 12 allegedly due to #depression. Related story: Individuals #suffering from #depression and needing such #assistance may call HopeLine #Hotlines at (02) 804-HOPE (4673); 0917 558 HOPE (4673); and 2919 (toll-free number for all GLOBE and TM subscribers).

Posted by Ronald Reyes on Wednesday, July 18, 2018

He maintained that Leyte division has not yet received complaints, either in oral and written form, as regards to bullying among teachers.

The school principal, a second-degree cousin and a fellow resident of Malate in Limba village, has “official” records to back his statement that they offered technical assistance to Malate over her lesson planning and other school-related problems that caused her some worries, Tenasas added.

Tenasas added that the assigned district supervisor in the area also issued a marching order to the principal to give technical assistance to the newly-hired teachers.

Malate’s multi-grade class assignment involved Grade 4, with 3 pupils; Grade 5, with 8 pupils, Grade 6, with 8 pupils.

“Preparing lessons and making a report to track down learners have been part of the teaching profession for decades,” said Tenasas, adding that teachers can download additional teaching and learning resources from the internet.

He said writing the teacher’s lesson is mandated through Department of Education (DepEd) orders and are “necessary to ensure quality learning outputs and smooth classroom management.”

It cannot be dispensed due to these reasons, he said.

“Monthly reports are must for all teachers to submit. Checking of work outputs of the students and recording results can never be dispensed to equitably give objective quantitative ratings to the students,” he added.

On the issue of assigning a newly hired teacher to a multigrade class, Tenasas said Leyte has 500 multigrade classes with the same number of teachers all over the 40 municipalities comprising the division.

The DepEd promoted “Multigrade Education” as one of its strategies “to provide access to quality education for all school-age children in remote communities where enrolment does not warrant the organization of monograde classes.”

“This Division has no choice but to assign newly hired to multigrade classes on the ground that our Higher Educational Institutions are expected to teach the delivery of multi-grade classes to would be teachers,” Tenasas said.

Meanwhile, Tenasas said that Leyte is implementing a “fair, objective, and transparent” recruitment and promotion system.

Dubbed as “NEW DOORS” or Nurturing Employees Welfare through the Division Objective Open Ranking System, the hiring process “allowed applicants to bring their own documents and personally hand it in to the assigned validators during validation and personally witness the appreciation of their documents in the presence of the committee members and witnessed by all other applicants.”

“The ratings of the appreciated documents are then posted on the screen so that everyone could see their individual ratings. Every applicant who left the venue has the knowledge of the actual rating they have during the document validation,” he said.

An applicant has to get a rating of 70 percent to be included in the Registered of Qualified Applicants (RQA), which is posted online for the public to see, said Tenasas.

In Leyte, Tenasas said that all school heads “are empowered to design their yearlong activity and reflect it in their Annual Improvement Plan (AIP) to appropriately fund the proposed activities. The activities deeply based on the perceived needs of the school and teachers.”

However, the education official admitted that they have a problem with the lack of qualified guidance counselors.

“For many instances, the Schools Division of Leyte published its need to hire guidance counselors but no one applied due to the very high qualification standards, which this division has no right to lower it,” he said.

Incidentally, the DepEd central office this week announced the hiring of 3,500 guidance counselors, saying there should be one counselor for every 500 students. DepEd also proposed the increase in the monthly salary of Guidance Counselor I from P20,179 to P31,765 so that more professionals will apply for the job.

Yet for Tenasas, the case of Malate is different because based on their inquiry, they “failed to observe any signs of inconsideration and insensitiveness.”

“Tejome’s act to bring books to Emylou and his effort to go to the school to comfort Emylou when he received the report from a teacher that Emylou was crying is a great manifestation of a considerate school head and not a headache to Emylou. The prodding of the District Supervisor, Edna Calades, to all school heads to extend technical assistance and give preferential consideration to newly hired teachers are not indicative of an inconsiderate and insensitive district head,” Tenasas said.

In Malate’s three suicide notes, where two were addressed to her mother and the third was addressed to her boyfriend, she “never failed to mention that she was weak but never mentioned it in her letter to her boyfriend.”

Quoting a study, Tenasas said “depression is an extremely complex disease.”

“The Schools Division of Leyte personally extended condolences and deep sympathies to the bereaved family of Teacher Emylou. We are currently working for the immediate release of any financial benefits due to her beneficiaries. We are saddened and in pain over this incident,” he said.

Malate’s death is everyone’s concern

Taking lessons from the death of Malate, Tenasas emphasized the importance of a support system in workplaces and the need to reach out to others if a person is in trouble over something.

“We will assure the public that this incident will reach to the division executive meeting so we can deliberate on how to eliminate the burdensome work of the teachers. This is worth to be elevated to the national. Whether they listen or not, we will be pushing it to the top. This is a national concern,” he said.

Tenasas assured that the life and death of Malate “will not be in vain.”

Meanwhile, Tenasas appealed to the school principals and administrators “to be extra considerate to our teachers.”

“They report to the school with different emotional ability. There is a need for us to be more caring, understanding, and tolerant” he said.

He reiterated that in the case of Malate, Tenasas said that “it cost her life, but the principal can sleep very well because he has not done anything wrong against her.”

As this developed, Tenasas encouraged teachers to air complaints if they feel they are aggrieved.

Leyte Division has more than 15,000 teachers assigned in 1,107 elementary schools, 149 secondary schools, and 126 senior high schools. As of this year’s Oplan Balik Eskwela, the division has 136,022 students enrolled in both secondary and senior high schools and 236,794 in elementary.

“To the new applicants or would-be teachers, please find time to ask yourself and know the challenges in DepEd. You know the paperwork DepEd is making for our reports. If we feel that we cannot handle it, let’s pause for a while because we ourselves can only determine what we can do and what we cannot do,” he said.

“They should know how to ascertain themselves. It is not hidden that teaching is equated to plenty of works,” Tenasas said.

Mental health education

Tenasas urged school heads to maintain social activities and interactions with their teachers.

“Part of our learnings, as proposed by the region, is we’ll have mental health education. Also, we’ve already suspended the pre-evaluation in the first quarter of the school year. We’ll only have mid-quarter evaluation because it is also necessary to have an evaluation for us to improve,” he said.

“Before deployment, our newly-hired teachers should undergo a one-day orientation for them to be emotionally prepared,” Tenasas said.

“There is a popular adage, in order not to be stressed, eliminate the stressor,” he said.

He reminded the teachers and administrators not to be overwhelmed by their tasks.

At the end of the day, Tenasas said it is very important for anyone to reach out to their friends, family, or peers if they have problems in their workplaces.

He also admitted that “maybe experts can help us on what’s behind Malate’s action.”

Malate's suicide case is the second in the entire Eastern Visayas to date.

Depression-Suicide link

Christian Gloria, associate professor of public health at Hawaii Public University-Department of Public Health, said that “certainly, there is a strong link between depression and suicide.”

“Depression could be a result of various stressors. Sources of stress could be from work, could be from home, from relationships, from friends, could be from unmet expectations between what she thought her new career would be versus what it actually is (e.g., maybe workload is too high, maybe interpersonal situation at work is negative and unsupportive, could be a type of workplace where positive emotions are not experienced),” Gloria told SunStar Philippines.

“Research indicates that low-level employees tend to experience high levels of stress mainly because they lack any sense of control over their work/life circumstances. These stresses can and do accumulate overtime, and such chronic forms of stress can negatively impact our health, both physically and psychologically, which can then spiral downwards to worse conditions to a point where someone may feel helpless and hopeless that could lead them to decide to end their lives (from such a deep and dark place where they may believe that they can’t ever get out),” he added in an online interview Thursday, July 19.

According to Gloria, who is also the president of the Hawaii Public Health Association, “people who suffer from depression can appear to be fine.”

“Because of the stigma against mental health problems in the Filipino culture, people may simply ‘hide’ their suffering,” he added.

In the case of Malate, Gloria, who learned of the story in news reports, said that when the teacher “seemed to have backed out from routine task like lesson planning,” this could have been the point when she decided to end her life, when she allowed the weight and expectations of the world to get off of her shoulders (i.e., gave up or stopped her fight to continue).

“I don’t know much about work conditions in the Philippines, or the work conditions specifically for teachers. But I can say, from my observations when I travel around the Philippines and visit schools, that workload for teachers (and even students) are exponentially higher compared to here in the US,” said the 36-year-old US-based professor who traced his roots from the Philippines.

“In addition to the high workload, high pressure, and high expectations, I had also wondered about other stresses outside of the workplace (e.g., stress with the very challenging public transportation, low wages, increasing cost of living, etc.),” he added.

“If she is new to the job/career, it's possible that she was already stressed/burned out/depressed before she started this job. It's possible that the additional stresses of the job served like the last straw that broke the camel's back. The additional work stress could have tipped the scale, to a point where she feels she can longer carry on,” Gloria said after going through the initial information shared by this reporter that may have caused Malate’s death.

Technology, boon or bane?

Meanwhile, Gloria opined on whether the modern technology is helpful or not in eliminating stress in one’s life particularly to the teachers.

“We teachers always joke about why we still feel so busy and overwhelmed even with the conveniences of the modern world. But the conveniences and fast pace only added pressure because now we are expected to get more things done,” he said.

Yet he said that in the case of Malate, “it could be just too much and too difficult for her to carry.”

“Overwhelmed and buried under. I worry for teachers and students there,” said Gloria while saying that he will be going to the Philippines soon in a hope to help conduct mental health research with the Angeles University Foundation.

Individuals suffering from depression and needing such assistance may call HopeLine Hotlines at (02) 804-HOPE (4673); 0917 558 HOPE (4673); and 2919 (toll-free number for all GLOBE and TM subscribers). (SunStar Philippines)


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