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Classroom follies

Senators are trying to do justice to the teacher’s important role in society and their hard work by raising their salaries.

Nick V. Quijano Jr.

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Sex, money, radicalism and even traffic are the new emotional barometers for plumbing out such a boring subject as education. Isn’t that stirring?

So, if one still insists going around pontificating grandiosely that education is a fundamental human right, one is a terrible old toothless saw. No one nowadays has use of old toothless saws, if you must know.

But try declaring something like this: “A lot of grade school students already have girlfriends and boyfriends because they are classmates. If they have an activity that they need to finish after school, they do it in their houses and the sex happens there. They could become teenage mothers.”

Sex is such a magical word, never failing to elicit a collective gasp at the mention of it. It makes a prude do the shocked open-mouth expression or the libertine, ludicrously leering, salacious tongue out.

What sort of character then are we to make of the one who made the remarks above — prude or libertine? It seems neither.

But whatever it is, the remarks of the country’s National Youth Commission (NYC) chairperson Ryan Enriquez does sound serious since his suggestion that boys and girls should be in separate classrooms from Grades 7 to 12 is meant to curb the rising cases of teen pregnancies and HIV.

If I am correct, Enriquez’s suggestion seems an archaic throwback to that bygone era when privately-run Catholic schools, with their all-boys or all-girls schools, were reputed for quality education even if they somehow did churn out graduates suspiciously stuck-up about sex.

Our public school system had dispensed with that gender-based classroom eons ago. A public school graduate, in fact, will find it absurdly alien why boys and girls need to be separated because of the dangers of sexual relations.

But granting validity to Enriquez’s suggestion that we need to control the teenager’s raging hormones, as exploding teenage pregnancies is now a “national concern,” will separate classrooms do the trick at lessening intimate relations between teenagers?

My strong opinion is separate classrooms won’t do, impractical too.

It is only when there is an educative and an openly sincere discussion inside classrooms about sex and reproduction is when curious teenagers become responsible about sexual relations and early pregnancies and realize they have lives yet to be lived.

Besides, amid current controversies about what sex gets to use what toilet, do we need to brace ourselves again for another controversy involving classrooms? Will there be three sorts of classrooms, one for the boy, another for the girl and another for the transgender?

Questions which now lead us to the fact there simply aren’t enough classrooms to go around in the first place. Nor is there money to build more classrooms.

Now, money for classrooms and even for education is another dicey thing besides teenage sex. And the sheer lack of money is about to force hundreds of thousands of college students to go on “forced vacations.”

“Forced vacations” because the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) suffered a P11.6 billion cut in its proposed budget for next year, affecting hard-up scholars.

“Instead of diplomas, the government will be handing out dismissal slips. The budget cut for tertiary education is a ticket to a forced vacation for many public and private college students,” laments Senate Pro Tempore Ralph Recto of the issue.

He adds: “There are many kinds of leaves a student can avail himself of, but a government-imposed ‘tuition-subsidy holiday’ should not be one of them!”

What the budget cut means is that the continued schooling of some 377,112 students, attending school under different types of financial assistance provided by CHED, is in jeopardy.
With such appalling numbers, the CHEd is frantically appealing before the Senate for the restoration of its proposed budget.

But, believe it or not, “forced vacations” is supposedly beneficial in solving Metro Manila’s traffic — that is if Senator Francis Tolentino is serious.

Last Saturday Tolentino urged school authorities to consider implementing an early Christmas break for students to ease the anticipated holiday traffic gridlocks.

So okay, let’s sacrifice school days of millions of students so that millions won’t be stuck in traffic during the Christmas rush. Talk about screwed priorities…

Early Christmas vacations, however, is just another sharp agony for the other important person in our schools, the teacher. Teachers, especially public school teachers, and all 800,000 of them, couldn’t care less — their current low pay won’t get them a great Christmas.

Senators are now also frantically trying to get pay raises for teachers, with proposals to increase the starting salary of public school teachers from the present P20,000 to as much as P45,000.
Senators, of course, are trying to do justice to the teachers’ important role in society and their hard work by raising their salaries. Work which, by the way, also includes properly teaching children about reproductive health and the pitfalls of early pregnancies.

Where to get the money, of course, is a stumbling block. To placate an anxious Budget department, the senators say the teachers’ pay raises will be done in installments, spread over five years, so budget officials have enough time to go bald scrounging for money.

In sum, the current problems of our country’s educational system are boringly low-voltage, nothing electrifying even if there is mention of sex. It is still a simple matter of no money to be had and no resources to turn to.

It is a dark prognosis, but it is a darkness which pales with the other bitter darkness of not caring at all if the Filipino gets educated or not.

We need to care. Unless, of course, we are all content to be morticians inspecting a corpse that is the Filipino nation, dead from the fatal disease of failing to vaccinate against the old aphorism of “those who know the least obey the best.”

Email: nevqjr@yahoo.com.ph

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