Tuesday, February 09, 2010

New ARMM Education chief introduces reforms, vows to bring more changes to benefit teachers

COTABATO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Feb. 9, 2010) – The Department of Education in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao has kicked off a series of campaign against unauthorized deductions or contributions from the paychecks of teachers in the region, starting with Lanao del Sur where the unscrupulous scheme was reportedly rampant.

On his 6th day in office and upon the order of ARMM Governor Ansaruddin Adiong, newly installed Education Secretary Hamid Barra, distributed on February 6 the salaries for January of more than 10,000 teachers from five divisions of Lanao del Sur province.

Barra said he was ordered by Adiong to “make sure that no teacher will go home without his paycheck.”

Teachers had complained that as much as P 1,700 was illegally deducted from their salaries in the past for alleged unauthorized deductions. Others said teachers who were applying for jobs were allegedly being told to pay as much as P150,000 each to ensure their hiring.

Barra said the leadership of Adiong is seriously committed to give what is due to teachers. “We mean business this time,” he said.

He said the January paychecks of teachers in Maguindanao, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi provinces were distributed on time through at the division levels.

DepEd-ARMM has more than 22,000 personnel, 90 percent of this are teachers.

Barra said he accepted his appointment as Education Secretary on the condition that he will introduce drastic reforms on which Adiong agreed. He said he is determined to implement reforms based on his four core values – knowledge, faith, virtue and practice.

“He (Adiong) also wants reforms in DepEd-ARMM. We have the same concern,” Barra said.

Barra said his agency will soon establish a hot line so teachers and other stakeholders can call and air their concerns or grievances and he pledged to act on all reports.

The Education department, according to Barra, is also conducting Comprehensive Evaluation and Assessment before reforms will take place and this comes in three phases.

Barra said he would regularly visit schools in the five provinces under the ARMM and would conduct meetings with school heads to listen to their reports and issues and concerns.

Barra assured that the issues and concerns submitted to his office will be looked into. “We will gradually deal with all these issues and concerns. We will look for strategies to solve these concerns of our teachers in the region,” he said.

A compliance and management audit will be conducted to assess the extent if teachers are in conformity with the standing rules and regulation of the department and the finance and personnel of the school or office will also be verified, he said.

Barra also warned “fixers” in the Education department that they will be sanctioned if proven that they are involved in the “selling of appointments (papers).”

“Jobs are not for sale. Those who passed the teachers examination will be given what they deserved,” Barra said.

He called on the more than 20,000 teachers all over the Muslim autonomous region to do their job and be committed to their profession. “We are here to work as a team, to work for the future of our children. This is for their education,” Barra said.

In Sulu, hundreds of teachers in the past have long complained of various anomalies and delay in salaries and had sought the help of Governor Sakur Tan to bring the issues to the attention of the ARMM.

Tan brought the issues and complaints of the teachers not only to the attention of the previous ARMM administration, but also to President Gloria Arroyo and the Department of Education in Manila.

The governor was also instrumental in bringing the teachers' licensure examination to Sulu that benefited thousands of teachers and applicants in the provinces of Sulu, Basilan and Tawi-Tawi. Previous licensure examinations were being held in Zamboanga City where teachers spend more money for hotel and their travel.

Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno installed Adiong as acting governor on December 11 following the detention of ARMM Governor Zaldy Ampatuan in connection with the brutal killings of 57 people, including at least 31 journalists in Maguindanao province on November 23. (Jo Henry and Mark Navales contributed to this report)

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