Bukidnon short of 1,550 public school teachers, 229 classrooms

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/24 March) – Bukidnon’s public elementary and secondary schools are short of 1,550 teachers and at least 229 classrooms when school opens in June, an education official said.

Dr. Ingrid Racoma, Bukidnon schools superintendent, said they need 618 elementary and 932 secondary school teachers for school year 2011-12. Bukidnon has about 4,329 teachers in 398 elementary schools and 983 teachers in 46 high schools.

Racoma said deploying enough number of teachers is one of the five areas of concerns prioritized by the Department of Education under the administration of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III.

Racoma cited the others as number of classrooms, chairs or desks, textbooks, and toilets for sanitation.

She said for school year 2010-11, her office received a total of P77 million to build classrooms. At P650,000 per classroom, they can only build 118 of the 229 classrooms needed in Bukidnon’s 444 basic education public schools.

To date, Racoma said Bukidnon’s public elementary and secondary schools are also short of 41,000 seats, 11,000 of which for high school students.

“This means either they are standing, bringing their own chairs, or are sitting on makeshift seats,” she added.

With an average of six classrooms in each school, she said 534 of 2,388 classrooms in the elementary and 158 of the 276 rooms in high school have no functional toilets.

Racoma said this situation has effect on the children’s health, the teaching of good sanitation, and could distract the school children’s focus on their lessons.

In an estimate of five text books per pupil in the elementary level, Racoma said they are short of a million copies of textbooks. In high school, they need at least 183,000 copies.

Racoma said DepEd has vowed to focus on these five areas this year but did not intend to disregard their needs for teacher training, information technology, laboratory equipment, libraries, and the need to put up specialized schools like for the arts, science, among others.

But she said funding for additional teachers could not catch up with the increasing demand for additional teachers every year.

Of the close to 600 additional elementary teachers they reported to the DepEd national office last year, she said, only 50 were funded – 30 in the opening of the school year and 20 in the mid-year. She said they welcomed the hiring of at least 20 Lumad teachers last year for schools in indigenous communities.

Racoma said they have initiated an inventory of teachers around the province to see if there are teachers who are holding non-teaching positions.

“We want them to go back to teaching to help address the shortage,” she added.

Racoma said the ideal teacher-to-student ratio should be 1 to 45. But in some schools the ratio is defied at 50 to 55 pupils, she added.

Racoma admitted that there are still multi-grade classes held in the province, where a teacher handles three grade levels. “But it is an intervention in some cases when the teachers requested were not yet funded,” she said.

She clarified that there are cases when the number of students enrolled in one school does not meet the required number to deploy additional teachers.

She admitted the shortage statistics in the province even if they are mandated to advocate for the proposed K+12 program to extend the number of years from 10 to 12 years to decongest the present curriculum “to meet international standards.”

Provincial board members chastised DepEd when Racoma presented the proposed program to them Wednesday.

Vice Gov. Jose Ma. R. Zubiri Jr. said they must fix the quality of education first before thinking of extending the school years at the detriment of the poor.

She said the quality of education must really be improved through additional budget for education. She noted that the K+12 program is still on consultation stage as there is no law yet passed on the program.

Racoma’s schools division covers the 20 towns of Bukidnon; Malaybalay and Valencia cities have separate schools divisions. (Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)