By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
The Department of Education (DepEd) reminded its teachers and personnel of the “appropriate administrative procedures” when it comes to addressing welfare issues and concerns in their respective schools in the wake of the viral news on the restroom used as a faculty room by teachers in a Cavite high school.
The use of a restroom as “faculty room” of teachers in Bacoor National High School (BNHS)-Molino Main has gone viral.
DepEd said 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.”
The use of the restroom as a faculty room was among the issues that marred the opening of school year (SY) 2019-2020 this week. The first day of classes on June 3 saw the recurring problems during school opening such as lack of classrooms and other school facilities – among others.
DepEd maintained that the reported incidents of overcrowding of students and lack of classrooms – among others – are “special cases” mainly due to the surge in the number of enrollees every year. These, the agency insisted, should not be considered as a “reflection” of the entire public school system.
Toilet Faculty Room
The use of the restroom as a “faculty room” came to light when Maricel Herrera, a BNHS teacher and faculty association president, took to social media her complaints on the lack of faculty room for teachers, among others.
In her post, Herrera shared the “dire” condition of the displaced teachers who were “forced” to convert the restroom into a makeshift faculty room. She lamented that licensed and professional teachers – many of whom have masteral degrees and units – do not have faculty rooms where they can “rest and relax” after a long day of classes. “After class syempre gusto ni teacher mapahinga kahit saglit, makapag relax naman, saan siya titigil pansamantala? Sa ilalim ng hagdan at dating CR [comfort room],” she said.
Hererra also alleged that the money used for renovating the comfort room as faculty room was shouldered by the teachers themselves. “Ang masaya nun sa bulsa pa niya galing ang pinagpaayos…kulang na nga ang sweldo gagastusan pa niya ang sana ay maayos na faculty room,” she added. She also hinted that the school’s Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses (MOOE) funds were not “properly used.”
Education Secretary Leonor Briones, at the school opening visit held at Signal Village National High School in Taguig City last Monday, insinuated the issue was more of a “drama” aimed to attract the attention of the media.
Briones explained that DepEd has “looked into it” and found out that using the restroom as a faculty room was the “choice” of the teachers themselves. “They had a choice, they could hold office in the laboratory rooms but of course, it is more dramatic, it’s more touching if you hold it in the toilets,” she said.
BHHS, Briones said, has more requirements in terms of classrooms because of an increase in enrollment of more than 7,000 learners this SY. She also noted because of the delayed approval of the 2019 budget, the construction of school buildings in many schools was delayed as well.
DepEd explained that the situation in BNHS “arose when the school implemented its decision to move to single-shift classes” this SY. This move, DepEd said, resulted in faculty rooms – intended originally as classrooms – needing to be “converted back into additional classrooms to realize the policy.”
After verifying with concerned school authorities, DepEd said that in an effort to address the displacement of teachers from the faculty rooms, BNHS Principal Anita Rom met with the teachers last May 27. “Minutes of the meeting indicate that the principal offered the library, the guidance center, and the advisory classrooms to serve as temporary faculty rooms,” DepEd said.
Despite this, DepEd noted that 11 of the school’s 236 teachers opted to convert a restroom into a faculty room. “It must be emphasized that the use of restroom is the choice of the 11 teachers themselves who then complained about it in social media,” the department stressed.
DepEd said that a memorandum to vacate the comfort room has already been issued by the principal. In a memorandum dated June 4, 2019, Rom advised “all teachers to use a portion of each ancillary rooms” being offered such as social hall, library, guidance, and conference rooms to be “used as faculty areas by teachers without advisory class during their vacant time as they are preparing this lesson plans, learning materials, and other assigned tasks, if any” while those with advisory classes were advised to “stay in their respective classrooms.”
Rom also directed all teachers to “vacate all comfort rooms” effective June 7 to be used “for its factual purpose by our students.” However, this did not sit well with the teachers noting that the “real issue” is the lack of faculty rooms for them and the money that they have used for the renovation costs.
DepEd noted that it also seeks to address the Bacoor issue and similar concerns strategically, over the long term, “by including in its programs the construction of administration buildings.”
In its 2020 budget, DepEd said that it has included in its request to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) the “funding for an initial batch of such buildings” which will have space for principal’s office, faculty room, guidance room, library, and school supplies and equipment storage in times of calamities.
Teacher vs. Principal; Teachers vs. DepEd
Hererra – who posted the issue on restrooms used as faculty rooms – may face raps. Earlier, ABS-CBN News reported that Rom is eyeing to file an administrative case and cyberlibel charges against the teacher for “damaging” not only the image of the school but of the entire DepEd.
Teachers’ groups rallied behind Hererra and lambasted DepEd officials for the “malicious imputations and intimidation” directed against her. The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) and the Teachers’ Dignity Coalition (TDC) decried the stand of DepEd on the issue – particularly the statements issued by Briones on the matter.
TDC challenged Briones to talk to the teachers themselves and not to school authorities. Those who hold school positions, the group alleged, have the tendency to cover up the shortage in their areas of responsibility.