DepEd: No more shortage of classrooms, teachers

Ghio Ong, Helen Flores - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - There will be no more shortage of classrooms, teachers and textbooks in public schools this coming school year, the Department of Education (DepEd) said yesterday.

DepEd Assistant Secretary for Planning Jesus Mateo said the government is building 34, 131 classrooms, which is enough to erase the backlog this year.

Mateo, however, said the government would continue to construct classrooms to accommodate the increase in enrollment every school year.

He there will also be no shortage of teachers with the hiring of 61,510 additional teaching personnel this year.

“As of last school year, the book-student ratio is 1:1 in both public elementary and secondary schools,” he said, adding that there is no more backlog in school seats.

Mateo likewise assured the public that DepEd would complete the delivery of teaching materials nationwide for Grades 2 and 8 under the newly signed K to 12 program before the end of June.

The education department expects some 23.8 million enrollees in both public and private elementary and high school this coming school year.

Mateo reiterated the DepEd’s call for early registration to avoid overcrowding.

“We will be able to plan and allocate resources properly. It also helps if teachers don’t get bogged down by administrative matters on June 3,” he said.

What zero backlog?

ACT Teachers’ party-list Rep. Antonio Tinio, however, disputed DepEd’s claim of zero backlog in teachers and classrooms, saying public school children “will still be facing severe shortage” this school year.

“Despite DepEd’s zero backlog claims, there will be a shortage of 46,567 teacher items and 32,844 classrooms when public schools open on Monday,” Tinio said.

He said DepEd continues to rely on 35,449 volunteer kindergarten teachers, 4,828 mobile teachers and coordinators, and 49,530 teachers funded by local governments.

“Government cannot claim that the teacher shortage has been addressed when it relies on 89,807 contractual and grossly exploited teachers, who are paid far below the minimum wage with no benefits and no job security,” Tinio said.

He said the Aquino administration’s public-private partnership program for School Infrastructure Project will not also be fully realized by end of 2013.

He noted that Phase 1 of the project in Regions I, III, and IV-A was awarded to two companies just last year, while Phase II has yet to begin with the submission of bid documents on June 17. “These classrooms are still in the air,” he said.

At least 201 new classrooms were built through the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor)’s Matuwid na Daan sa Silid-Aralan, a P1-billion project, which was completed last April.

Pagcor chairman Cristino Naguiat Jr. said 577 other classrooms in 92 areas are under construction and 54 under procurement.

Among those given priority by Pagcor’s school building program were those destroyed by Typhoon Sendong.

Coast Guard on alert

Meanwhile, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) will place its personnel on heightened alert starting today in line with the Department of Transportation and Communication’s “Ligtas Byahe: Back-to-School Program.”

“In anticipation of the school opening and the onset of the typhoon and rainy season, we would like to assure the public that all our units are ready to assist and respond to any emergencies that require our support,” PCG commandant Rear Admiral Rodolfo Isorena said.

The PCG, along with the Maritime Industry Authority and Philippine Ports Authority, reactivated passenger assistance centers in all seaports. – With Evelyn Macairan, Paolo Romero, Rainier Allan Ronda

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