Following the reported suicide of another public school teacher, two educators’ groups are calling on the Department of Education (DepEd) anew to unburden teachers of tasks that are clerical and not related to teaching.
The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) and the Teachers’ Dignity Coalition (TDC) on Monday also appealed to the education department to safeguard the mental health of educators, who face challenges both inside and outside their classrooms.
Last week, a 23-year-old newly hired Kindergarten teacher in Bacoor, Cavite province, allegedly took her life in a boarding house. She reportedly hailed from Antique province.
Leaders of ACT who visited her wake were informed of her struggles with work demands. The young teacher had taught two classes from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., with eight subjects each.
“Even her lunch breaks are usually spent in the Office of the Principal doing tasks especially assigned to her; she prepares 8 different logs, 8 lesson plans per day [and] 8 worksheets which she herself must provide,” the group said in a statement.
Last year, a teacher in Albay province also reportedly took her life.
Education Secretary Leonor Briones said the DepEd had formed a team from the regional office to look into the reports.
Briones said it was hard to conclude at this time if the 23-year-old teacher and other teachers had taken their lives due to heavy workloads.
“We are taking this very seriously,” she told the Inquirer. “We are even reviewing the workload of the teachers since many requirements are not from DepEd per se.”
“No one can say at this time if [the incident] was due to clerical work,” she added.
Briones said the DepEd was coordinating closely with the Department of Health in assisting teachers needing assistance on their mental health.
Lack of support staff
Raymond Basilio, ACT secretary general, said teachers were overworked because of the lack of educational support staff and shortages in classrooms and instructional materials.
“How many more lives of teachers must it take before the government take this issue seriously?” he said.
Beyond teaching duties, teachers are assigned to perform administrative tasks and even serve as guidance counselors, clerks, librarians and custodians.
Given the heavy workload, educators have clamored for pay increases, which have been enjoyed by other uniformed government employees like police officers.
According to the DepEd, Teachers 1, who are at Salary 11, currently, receive a monthly gross pay of P20,179. Teachers 2, meanwhile, get P22,149.
TDC chair Benjo Basas said the young teacher’s reported suicide, which follows a similar incident just last month in Leyte province, should alarm the DepEd.
“We appeal to Secretary Briones to put a halt on all of the required nonteaching-related tasks, class observations and paper works,” he said.
ACT and TDC also demanded a comprehensive healthcare program for teachers, as mandated by the Magna Carta for Teachers.
Education Undersecretary Annalyn Sevilla said the department had created 5,000 nonteaching, 4,000 specialized teaching and 3,000 guidance counselor positions to ease the workload of teachers.