By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
A teachers’sgroup on Friday urged the government through the Department of Education (DepEd) to provide medical assistance to public school teachers to prevent them from accumulating debts.
The Teachers’ Dignity Coalition (TDC), a 30,000-strong group, revealed that “one of the principal factors why teachers borrow money is because the government does not have medical assistance for them despite the mandate of a law.”
“Under the law, the government is responsible for maintaining teachers’ health through a compulsory, annual and free medical examination,” TDC National Chairperson Benjo Basas said.
“And if the examination found that a teacher needs to undergo medication or hospitalization, again it should be at the expense of the government,” Basas added, quoting Section 22 of the Magna Carta for Public School Teachers (RA 4670), a law enacted in 1966.
Added medical burden
TDC argued that teachers – aside from daily expenses for their family and teaching aids – are also burdened by expenses for their medical needs, including the annual medical check-up which should be free of charge.
Despite the explicit provision of the law, however, Basas said that public school teachers themselves pay for these tests.
“They run to loan agencies especially if they have no extra income or savings from their meager salaries and then, it would be difficult for them to free themselves from chains of debt,” he added.
Teacher Jennifer’s plight
Basas cited the case of Jennifer Nague De Jesus, a teacher of San Vicente Elementary School in San Pedro City, Laguna.
In 2007, De Jesus was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease.
“Presently, she is back to teaching but still needs to undergo dialysis sessions two times a week that costs her not less than R4,000, because she has consumed her free sessions from PhilHealth,” he added.
“Where could Teacher Jennifer possibly get that amount if she will not run to loan agencies for fast cash? But at the end of the day, where she will get the money to pay for these loans? Clearly, she borrowed money, literally to live,” Basas said.