AS THE world pays tribute to teachers around the world on Monday, Oct. 5, 2020, a group of Cebuano public school teachers has called on the government to prioritize their welfare and concerns, especially in times of a pandemic.

Antonia Lim, president of the Alliance for Concerned Teachers in Central Visayas, said the plight of the education sector, particularly teachers, remains neglected.

She said the public has been witness to the struggles encountered by teachers who are not even provided with a free laptop, internet allowance and paid sick leave given the new setup of education.

“May budget sa dolomite sand. May dakong budget sa NTF ELCAC. May kwarta sa pusil ug bala pero sa libro wala (They have a budget for dolomite for the Manila Bay project. They have a budget for the NTF ELCAC, for ammunition and firearms, but they don’t have enough for books),” she said.

NTF ELCAC stands for National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, a government program to end communism in the country.

According to the Department of Education (DepEd) 7, fewer than 100 teachers have been inflicted with Covid-19 in the region. Two in Cebu City have died, while the rest have recovered.

Central Visayas currently has around 80,000 public school teachers.

Lim also called on her fellow teachers to be united in continuously advocating and giving free quality education to students.

She encouraged them to continue to fight for a better salary and benefits.

Salustiano Jimenez, DepEd 7 director, said the entry level salary of a public school teacher is P22,316, excluding the P2,000 from the Personnel Economic Relief Allowance, a monthly compensation allowance for government employees.

As to private school teachers, the salary is dependent on the school. He said some provide an entry level salary of P6,000, or the minimum per labor.

Lim earlier said that although the promised salary increase for government employees, including public school teachers, under the Salary Standardization Law of 2019 has already been implemented, they have yet to enjoy its effects due to the increase in government-mandated contributions and tax dues.

Teachers with Salary Grade 12 and up have tax dues already. In her case, Lim said, she can only enjoy around P200 of what’s left of the increase deducted by income tax and increased Government Service Insurance System, PhilHealth Insurance and Pag-IBIG contributions.

Jimenez, for his part, said the teachers’ efforts are much appreciated, especially amid the current Covid-19 pandemic.

“We have been bombarded with challenges in our cause for education to continue amidst this pandemic, keep going anyway. Remember, all these will just come to pass. Your legacy being an educator will be etched in every child’s heart,” he said.

World Teachers’ Day has been held annually on Oct. 5 since 1994. It commemorates the anniversary of the adoption of the 1996 United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) recommendation concerning the status of teachers.

Unesco said the recommendation sets benchmarks on the rights and responsibilities of teachers and standards for their “initial preparation and further education, recruitment, employment and teaching and learning conditions.”