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Pia Besmonte

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The Shylock of Public School Teachers

I can remember my childhood in seasons of relative deprivation. My parents were public school teachers who raised ten kids. Their income were so insignificant that we were always deep in debt.

This is why I can empathize with public school teachers who are being threatened to lose their PRC license if they cannot settle their debts to private lending institutions.

Private Lending Institutions are the Shylock of Public School Teachers

When my parents started as teachers, the income of a salary grade 11 (entry-level) public school teacher was approximately PhP 9,939 (USD 193). They stayed at SG 11 for many years until they both pursued their master’s degrees.

They were raising ten children with USD 193 per month.

When I was a kid my dad would bring me to Manila Teachers. They would give teachers some form of salary advance, and then they will get their money back via loan deductions.

I could write so much about the oppression of public school teachers in the Philippines. My parents took out loans and surrendered their own ATM cards and bank passbooks. I have seen my parents get scammed with compounding credit card interest.

I haven’t just seen it: I lived it. There were times we slept hungry because of it.

This is the part where I remind you that these teachers are not taking out a loan for a handbag or a new smartphone.

Terrible working conditions, expectations of unconditional service

Teaching is a full-time job. It consumes our lives. We are never not thinking about teaching. We spend so many unbilled hours preparing for teaching. We use our vacations and holidays to write lesson plans, check papers, and grade students.

Teachers are overworked, leaving no opportunity for part-time work. They are astoundingly underpaid, barely enough for the basic needs of a single teacher with no dependents.

For the teaching profession that asks so much of us, you would expect it to compensate our work and sustain our lives.

And when it doesn’t, predatory lending companies circle us, smelling our poverty and our desperation.

Where is the dignity of the teaching profession?

You know why I am angry? I am a PRC-licensed high school teacher, too. Despite a double degree in  Literature and Education, I cannot practice my profession. It simply is not enough for my needs, never mind  the family I am building.

How do you raise a family with dignity when your dignified profession is barely keeping you afloat?

How well can teachers do their job when their family is starving? How much faith in the education system do they have when they have to take out loans for their own children’s tuition?

Teachers deserve more than this.

There must be a better way to keep teachers afloat than debt.

If the government can’t give teachers better compensation, they should have more laws protecting teachers from these private lending institutions.

We should have financial management courses for teachers — not only for the day-to-day expenses but also preparing for retirement. There are too many retired and broke teachers in the Philippines.

The government should have policies and institutions providing financial bailouts for bankrupt teachers.

Getting so worked up over this.

A metaphor: teachers are microorganisms that fertilize the soil. If the soil is fertile, the crops are good.

Teachers do more than give homework to your snotty, Instagram-obsessed children. The standard of education teachers uphold decides the employability of the next generation. They uphold the values that make us Filipinos. They teach your children history, culture, civics, law — things that you may not teach them because you’re busy providing for them.

When teachers fail at life, they will fail at their job. Whatever will happen to your children?

Also

Jail the sharks.

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