Teachers welcome DepEd move to scrap competition in ‘Brigada Eskwela’

Cristina Chi - Philstar.com
Teachers welcome DepEd move to scrap competition in �Brigada Eskwela�
This photo shows community stakeholders paritcipating in the "Brigada Eskwela" program of the Department of Education.
Edd Gumban

MANILA, Philippines — A nationwide group of teachers has welcomed the Department of Education’s move to drop the awarding of the best Brigada Eskwela implementers for this school year. 

In a statement on Monday, the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) said that it supports DepEd’s decision following reports of teachers feeling pressured to solicit donations and shell out their own money to spruce up their schools for the competition.

“ACT Philippines welcomed the Department of Education’s announcement that there will no longer be a contest for the ‘Best Brigada Eskwela Implementers’ following numerous complaints that the competition forces teachers to solicit for school needs,” the statement read.

ACT Chairperson Vladimer Quetua said that while their group recognizes the “Bayanihan spirit” of engaging local governments and communities in preparation for school openings, “the duty of providing for education should not be passed on to (teachers) as they are already taxpayers who contributed for the delivery of basic social services.”

“If we ask them for their ambag (contribution), how much is given by the government to prepare schools before the opening of classes?” Quetua said in Filipino.  

A DepEd memorandum issued in March but only made available to the public in April stated that the search for the best Brigada Eskwela implementers will be called off "in response to issues and concerns on the Brigada Eskwela Program implementation.”

“There will be no certificate of recognition given to school heads and teachers, which has corresponding points for outstanding accomplishment for the purpose of promotion and office/individual performance,” the memorandum read.

Instead, all public schools that implemented “Brigada Eskwela” will receive a certificate of recognition for their compliance with the campaign and for their efforts to engage with partners to prepare for the opening of classes.  

Quetua said that because the overall DepEd budget for school maintenance and other operating expenses for 2023 is only P30.8 billion, with 25 million public school students, this translates to just P1,232 for every learner to cover repairs, new equipment supplies and other operational expenses for the whole year. 

“Now, the problem of repainting classrooms, repairing doors or windows; comfort rooms; blackboards, or buying electric fans and other equipment is left on the class adviser and the parents,” Quetua said.

“Given the dire economic situation of our learners’ families, class advisers are forced to spend their meager salaries just so that our learners will have conducive learning spaces,” he added.

Concerning competition aspect 

Held annually since 2008, Brigada Eskwela is a DepEd partnership program that encourages schools to tap the local community and government to help with classroom repairs and school ground cleaning before the opening of classes. 

The program allows parents of students and nearby residents to volunteer and respond directly to the immediate needs of public schools with limited funds or personnel.  

In response to a viral Facebook post that criticized the Brigada Eskwela program for allegedly ‘transforming’ teachers into “professional beggars,” DepEd reminded school heads last year that no money should be collected from parents or stakeholders participating in Brigada Eskwela.

DepEd’s reminder prompted users in a public Facebook group for teachers to lament the competition aspect of the program that reportedly pressures school personnel to find sponsors or pay for out-of-pocket expenses themselves to meet school-set targets.

DepEd’s revisions to the Brigada Eskwela guidelines this year allow school divisions to “exercise their sound discretion as to how they will recognize the schools with an exemplary implementation of Brigada Eskwela.” – with reports from The STAR / Janvic Mateo

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