Manila: Scene 1: Filipino teachers in a school outside Manila set their faculty table on top of a toilet bowl.
Scene 2: In another school, this time in Manila, what appears to be "comfort room" has also been turned into a faculty room.
The first image, posted by Maricel Herrera, a teacher at Bacoor National High School in Cavite, shows a toilet being converted into a faculty room.
Explaining the situation of her fellow teachers, Herrera said that the old rooms were converted to classrooms due to higher number of students this year.
The Department of Education Secretary, Dr. Leonor Briones, initially dismissed the scene as "touching" and "dramatic", but isolated.
The DepEd explained that the issue stemmed from the school’s decision to move to single-shift classes this school year. With 7,000 enrollees, the school converted faculty rooms to classrooms to support the new policy.
Then teachers in other schools posted similar pictures. The surprise and irony represented by the posts indicate what ails the Philippine educational system.
Education gets the biggest chunk of the Philippine budget, yet the toilets-as-faculty-rooms scenes in some schools do highlight certain inadequacies.
It also highlights as the second-rate treatment of Filipino teachers — at least compared to the better-compensated police officers — whose salaries were raised recently by President Rodrigo Duterte.
On average, an entry-level Filipino teacher's monthly pay is $331 a month, or Php202,827 annually. This is equivalent to Php 120 per hour, according to payscale.
Following the toilets-as-faculty-rooms reports, Dr Briones, the Philippine Education Secretary told her teachers and education personnel to use “appropriate administrative procedures” in order to address welfare issues and concerns in their respective schools.
$331average monthly pay for an entry-level Filipino teacher
The department stated that it is “exerting all efforts to facilitate a solution acceptable to all officials and teachers in regard to the faculty room issue.”
It added that “concrete steps have been undertaken to resolve any conflict in the interest of orderly operations of the school.”
In another post, Filipino teacher Karen Apoloan posted a Facebook picture of herself with colleagues sitting in their "faculty room" that also looked like a converted toilet.
Writing in Filipino, she stated: "There. Our CR (comfort room) faculty room. Two departments in our school use a CR as faculty room. We're not staging a drama. We don't have a choice."
She added: "We don't have lab rooms. Our students perform their experiments on the floor of our classrooms...In my first three years of service, we relied on drawing and improvisations. I don't have a teacher's table in my first 1-1/2 year of teaching. I was sharing it (with a colleague) in the faculty room."
Apoloan, in a subsequent post, tried to downplay the ruckus over her post.
No big deal, says teacher
"Actually, it's not that big deal for me using the toilet as a faculty room. If there is something to rant about and complain about DepEd (Department of Education), that is the very complicated curriculum and mass promotion (of undeserving students). I believe that is the root behind the eroding quality of education in the Philippines."
On Friday, a militant federation of Filipino teachers — Alliance of Concerned Teacher (ACT), which has gained one seat in the Philippine Congress under the Party List System — accused officials of the Department of Education (DepEd) of imposing a “news blackout” to downplay the toilets furore.
In January 2018, President Duterte signed a resolution raising the salary increase for the country's uniformed personnel, with a new monthly base pay for a Private (Police Officer 1) raised to P29,668 (about $571).
$571base pay for Filipino entry-level police officer (Private/Police Officer 1), excluding other benefits.
Under the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN), Philippine National Police (PNP) uniformed personnel will also enjoy lower income tax rates.
With the increase in salary, it also means PNP personnel will enjoy higher benefits upon retirement.
Its cash appropriations in the 2019 budget amounts to Php659.3 billion ($12.7 billion), higher by P72.2 billion or 12.3% than its cash-based equivalent in the 2018 budget. Consistent with "Build-Build-Build", the Public Works Department (DPWH) is allocated P555.7 billion ($10.7 billion), registering a Php225.5 billion or 68.3% increase.
Interior and Local Government (DILG), which runs the Philippine National Police force, comes in third — with an allocation of Php225.6 billion ($4.35 billion), higher by Php53.3 billion or 30.9%.
Source: Philippine government data
Filipino teacher salary facts
An early career Elementary School Teacher with 1-4 years of experience earns an average total compensation (includes bonus and overtime pay) of Php196,527 ($3,788).
A mid-career Elementary School Teacher with 5-9 years of experience earns an average total compensation of Php245,273 ($4,728.50).
An experienced Elementary School Teacher with 10-19 years of experience earns an average total compensation of Php328,600 ($6,334.92). Source: Payscale