27 million Filipino children troop back to school

Teachers use first day of semester to push for more pay
27 million Filipino children troop back to school

An estimated 27 million young Filipinos attend the first day of classes across the country as schools opened on June 3. (Photo by Jire Carreon)

An estimated 27.2 million young Filipinos trooped back to primary and secondary schools across the country as classes opened on June 3.

The perennial problem of teacher and classroom shortages greeted schoolchildren who have to attend classes in shifts, especially in densely populated urban centers.

In the capital Manila, the Alliance of Concerned Teachers held a demonstration to protest low wages. An entry-level teacher in the Philippines earns about US$400 a month.

The group called on the government for a "substantial salary increase" for state schoolteachers and other government employees.

Raymond Basilio, secretary-general of the teachers' alliance, said about 800,000 teachers "suffer due to very low pay that does not afford them a decent life."

"Teachers are faced with the same old problems ... yet they continue to fulfill their duties," said France Castro, a House of Representatives member.

Education Secretary Leonor Briones said that despite the challenges the government is increasing efforts to deliver “quality, accessible, relevant, and liberating basic education."

The education official also said problems (shortages) encountered during the first day of classes were "isolated" and do not reflect the situation in most public schools.

Bishop Ruperto Santos of Balanga, meanwhile, reminded young Filipinos, especially the children of migrant workers, to take their studies seriously.

"As your parents work hard to send you to school, study harder. Study to be successful as they dream it for you," said the prelate who heads the Episcopal Commission on Migrants and Itinerant People.

"Make [your parents] happy and bring honors to them. Make your studies first and foremost in your life," added Bishop Santos.

"Remember your parents work hard to earn, so don’t waste what they send you, and learn to save," he said.

Security has been tight at several campuses in Manila.

About 120,000 police officers have been deployed nationwide to secure school campuses.

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