Stricter health,  work rules urged over rising COVID cases among teachers

July 26, 2020

A TEACHERS’ group called on the Department of Education (DepEd) to adopt a stricter observance of health protocols and work arrangements  after receiving  reports of suspected and confirmed COVID-19 cases among teachers.

Emmalyn Policarpio ,  secretary-general of Teachers Dignity Coalition (TDC),  said there are  reports that some field officials may  require teachers to physically go to school even  there is work from home set-up.

“This pandemic is a serious threat to life and safety of our teachers and the DepEd should take this seriously as well,” Policarpio stressed.

The group said the DepEd leadership is not exerting enough effort to minimize the exposure of teachers to the dreaded virus by “not acting swiftly” on the reports.

“After the Central Office has released an order, several memoranda and clarifications, some field officials still require  teachers to go to school and we never missed to remind the DepEd about this,” Policarpio pointed out.

However, the  TDC acknowledged the  reply of the DepEd Central Office to its letter reiterating the request for a definite instruction to clarify the DepEd order on the alternative work arrangement.

In  a reply addressed to Policarpio, the DepEd Central Office, through Undersecretary Revsee Escobedo, clarified the following: 1.) The work from home (WFH) set-up is the default scheme which will be used especially for teachers whose main task is to facilitate classroom learning, even in areas considered as low-risk; 2.) The physical or on-site reporting is non-mandatory and shall be done in consultation with the personnel involved; 3.) Only those personnel with tasks or functions that cannot be rendered remotely or those in exceptional cases can be considered for physical reporting;  4.) The concerned offices that require physical reporting should provide for transportation services for their employees; and 5.)   Physical reporting shall be prohibited for schools that were used as quarantine or isolation facilities.

“The TDC has the same interpretation as the DepEd Central Office on this matter and we both uphold the intention of the  order to protect the health, safety and well-being of the learners, the teachers and the non-teaching personnel.“The order also aims to support the overall effort of the government to prevent the further transmission of COVID-19 while ensuring the continuous delivery of education,” Policarpio said. According to Policarpio, the TDC has been receiving reports of suspected and even confirmed COVID cases among teachers. 

“We have received some information that several teachers who were earlier required to report physically to their schools were eventually tested positive for COVID-19. In another report, at least two teachers have observed symptoms a day after reporting to their school and are now both suspected cases in their localities and were put in strict isolation,” Policarpio added.

On Saturday,TDC received a report from Southern Luzon that some 20 teachers were put in isolation after having been exposed to a colleague who tested positive from the virus.

“This is not conclusive, anyway. But the contagion may be attributed to the physical interaction in the workplace or on their way to or from the school,” Policarpio explained.

The TDC asked the DepEd to implement its order that  physical reporting is an option and not mandatory and may only be used in exceptional cases and upon consultation with personnel involved.

“The DepEd Central Office should call the attention of the field officials who require their teachers to report physically, give them a stern warning or take administrative actions against them,” Policarpio said.