Monday was World Teachers’ Day, and on that day there were profuse greetings and tributes to teachers about how they shape the minds of the youth, sacrifice for the good of the many, and serve as mentors, second parents and friends to their students.
Monday was also the first day of classes for public schools here, amid a much-altered, chaotic learning environment brought about by COVID-19.
In her speech during the Department of Education’s school opening program, Secretary Leonor Briones tried to be upbeat about our fight against the virus.
“Today we celebrate a great victory. We declare our victory over COVID-19, the destroyer of our lives, economy, way of life, and society,” she said.
Unfortunately, Secretary Briones’ optimism is misplaced. Some even think it is downright insulting to the teachers who have to bear the brunt of the transition to distance learning with the threat of the virus still raging across the land.
Distance learning seriously compromises the quality of learning as teachers, parents and students alike grapple with technical and logistical issues of connectivity, access to gadgets and even to the modules prepared by the school.
Through it all, the teachers are much concerned about whether their students are getting the education they need and deserve, whether or not there is a pandemic. Many of them still have to report to school for their tasks even as classroom instruction has been halted until there is a vaccine. They have to take public transportation and expose themselves—and their families—to the health risk.
Alas, the governor of Cagayan, Manuel Mamba, cruelly dismissed the efforts of teachers and even suggested they be paid less since they are working from home anyway. In a radio interview, Mamba said he thinks the teachers are enjoying themselves because they are getting paid for doing nothing, and that teachers, instead of complaining, should work harder so that government funds are not put to waste.
He apologized only after he was roundly criticized on social media.
Teachers’ Day is an annual occasion we have grown used to celebrating. In pre-COVID days, students gave tokens to their teachers to show their appreciation, and many took to social media to remember their teachers who made an impact on their lives.
This year’s celebration asks all of us to do more than token greetings. These difficult times highlight the excruciating work that teachers do out of love for their profession notwithstanding their own difficulties at adjusting to new ways of instruction. Raise their salaries. Provide them the support they need to do their jobs instead of giving them orders and then letting them fend for themselves. Allow them to air their grievances and constructive criticism instead of preventing them from speaking out. Never discount their efforts or their commitment.
This is how we do right by our teachers, who are fighting on their own frontlines during these uncertain times.