By JOHN CARLO M. CAHINHINAN
MANILA – Senator Sherwin Gatchalian has urged the national government aid to struggling private school institutions amid the low enrollment rate due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate committee on basic education, arts, and culture, made the remarks as the enrollment in these institutions reached only 24.3 percent of last year’s 4 million students.
“Ang mga pribadong paaralan ay ating mga katuwang sa pagbibigay ng dekalidad na edukasyon sa ating mga kabataan. Upang hindi matigil ang kanilang pagbibigay ng edukasyon, kailangang ipagpatuloy natin ang pagbibigay ng tulong sa kanila habang nasa gitna tayo ng krisis na dulot ng COVID-19,” said Gatchalian.
He noted that out of 20,220,507 learners enrolled nationwide as of July 15, only 1,050,437 are enrolled in private schools based on the figures released by the Department of Education (DepEd).
About 323,524 learners from private schools, state universities and colleges (SUCs), and local universities and colleges (LUCs) have moved to public schools based on latest data form DepEd.
According to Gatchalian, ensuring the continued implementation of government subsidy programs, including the Senior High School Voucher Program (SHS VP) and the Education Service Contracting (ESC) “will help learners to continue their education while giving relief to private schools, especially those who are struggling to sustain operations because of lockdown measures and postponed enrollment.”
The SHS VP is a program of financial assistance wherein subsidies in the form of vouchers are provided to qualified SHS learners from private or non-DepEd schools.
The ESC, on the other hand, utilizes the excess capacities of certified private junior high schools by allocating slots to students who would have gone to public schools. The slots come with subsidies called ESC grants.
Gatchalian stressed that there should be enough allocations for these programs under the 2021 budget so as not to reduce the number of beneficiaries as it could lead to a potential spike in dropouts.
To help private schools stay afloat, Gatchalian emphasized the need to give direct subsidies to teachers and personnel, some of whom are being paid so little since the imposition of quarantine measures.
Gatchalian noted that the proposed Bayanihan to Recover As One Act under Senate Bill No. 1564 or Bayanihan 2.0, which has a provision to give one-time cash assistance to affected teaching and non-teaching personnel in private schools.
Bayanihan 2.0 also aims to give tuition subsidies to learners who are not covered by government educational subsidies and voucher programs.
Gatchalian said that with the help of the government and other sectors, private schools should ramp up their re-enrollment campaigns so they can reach learners who are at risk of dropping out and ensure that no child will be left behind including children in private schools.