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ROUGH CUTS | Profligate with people’s money

WE AGREE with the observations of some friends that the procurement by the Department of Education (DepEd) with several units of a well-known pick-up vehicle brand is one display of profligacy. And it is worth the citizens’ scorn on the concerned agency of government to be profligate with people’s money.

But if I may, I’d put some degree of weight on the aspect of DepEd’s highly insensitive display of shamelessly erroneous priority. Why buy over a hundred units of brand new vehicles costing roughly P1.4 million each at this time when the country’s educational system is facing a serious challenge due to the pandemic brought about by the deadly CoViD 19?

Yes, the education system is radically changed in terms of methodology because of the ban on having face-to-face classes in order to prevent massive transmission of the illness. So, what is happening now in the much delayed start of School Year 2020-2021 is the implementation of on-line classes, the modular instruction method, the classes on air, and the blended education system. The latter is the combined on-line and modular methods of instructions.

With the adoption of the schemes come the various challenges that are considered major hindrances to the effective transfer of knowledge. On the on-line system the major problems that immediately surfaced are the lack of gadgets for both teachers’ and students’ use; the limited coverage of telecommunications signal which put those learners in the rural and other far-flung areas at a huge disadvantage.

On the modular procedure, the DepEd has no qualms in claiming it has money for the module production and distribution. But what is happening on the ground is a totally different story. That is why it is common nowadays to hear appeals from school heads for donation of bond papers, newsprints, computer printer ink and other items needed to complete the desired number of copies of the modules for various grade levels.

And even in the on-air or on television instruction method, the problems still exist. Many of the students in the uplands do not have television set in their residences. Worst, the residence of the students in the uplands may not be connected to the power grid. Yes, they may have radio set but because of poverty they could also be hard-pressed for continuously providing it with battery.

Now, haunted by this negative backlash of their action, the DepEd executives seem to be seeking refuge of their administrative “misdemeanor” resorting to legalese. They could immediately cite certain provisions of the current year’s national expenditures act (2020 National Budget). They would invoke as their justification that what is budgeted for a particular project cannot be used for another purpose. So, they have to proceed with the acquisition of the vehicles which is where the money is allocated for this fiscal year.

Sounds right of course. After all it is within the purview of the national budget law. So the procurement is by all aspects legal.

The real question however, is “Is their act moral?” They know that today the country’s educational system is affected by the global health emergency. The traditional mode of transferring knowledge to the Filipino learners has to undergo a radical change forcing the government to add new expenditures in order to meet the requirements of the new instruction methods.

It is no secret to the top officials of the DepEd that the salary level of teachers are far from enough to make their family living comfortable. They also know that the teachers’ take home pay is determined by how much are their deductions from various lending institutions that the DepEd itself accredits to transact with the agency.

So, the agency executives are fully aware that only a few of the teachers nationwide have in their possession the gadgets such as table computers, laptops, tablets, and even smart mobile phones. Now, if this situation is prevailing among teachers, how much more for the students most of whom are children of marginalized parents?

Therefore, if the DepEd planners are really sensitive to such need and have the knack for responsive priorities, then they could have easily consulted the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), the Commission on Audit (COA), the Department of Justice (DOJ), and even the Office of the President. Together these offices could have crafted a way to respond to the need of the time.

Yes, the DepEd could have sought authority to re-align the budget for the purchase of computers and other electronic gadgets needed for the new modes of instruction. These could be “loaned” to the teachers or issued to the schools with corresponding defined accountability.

Some units could also be issued to students who are the position to use it effectively. That is, that they are residents of areas with electricity, with telecommunication signals, and above all, they have the needed skill to use the gadgets.

On the other hand, the agency could have set aside from the realigned budget an amount for the purchase of bond papers, printing ink, and even printers for the production of the modules. And if money is still available, the DepEd can set aside a portion therefrom for transportation cost in distributing the modules in hard-to-reach areas.

Unfortunately, all these problems which were acknowledged by the DepEd officials before the start of the school year, were somehow forgotten. Instead, they see the need for the education officials in the national office, regions and perhaps up to the district level for comfortable rides when visiting select schools under their jurisdiction. Never mind the lowly hard-up teachers and students. These profligate DepEd executives might have in the back of their minds, the thought that after all, the teachers and students, and the parents as well, will just have to live with it.

Profligate? Yes they are. Wanting in appropriate priority? Yes, these DepEd officials concerned are.

Now we are starting to believe that all these could be the reason why many students and parents are complaining that in a well-known public high school somewhere south of the city, the number of on-line class hours is much shorter than the total hours that the students are supposed to be having classes.

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