As class opening draws near, private schools start layoffs over decline in enrollees

Michael Joe Delizo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 25 2020 11:44 PM | Updated as of Jun 27 2020 10:44 AM

MANILA (UPDATED) -- It started with a warm and funny chit-chat.

Part-time professors of a private college in Metro Manila saw each other again Tuesday in an online video conference after a long school hiatus.

Everyone was ecstatic, teasing each other's "quarantine look," finding surprise in the wonders of virtual meeting, and raising many other amusing topics. 

But when the agenda of the meeting got off the ground, the loud get-together drastically turned into a deafening silence of worry and brokenheartedness.

The dean of the school's College of Arts and Sciences announced in tears the layoff of the college’s part-time professors, citing the institution’s budget constraints.

She said there has been a decline in enrollees for the first semester of academic year 2020-2021. Some upper-year students have been withdrawing their papers too to transfer to state-run universities and colleges.

The coronavirus disease pandemic in the Philippines has toppled many businesses and caused widespread job losses, making it difficult for many to send children to school.

A professor teaching foreign languages for the past 15 years was among the many professors who will not get a teaching load for the next semester. 

The announcement, she said, meant a major adjustment in her lifestyle.

“All of a sudden, mawawalan tayo ng load. Siyempre sobrang lungkot,” the teacher, who requested anonymity, said. “Malaki ’yung mawawala. Actually, mas malaki ’yung hourly rate ko dito as compared to other schools. So talagang ang magiging solusyon ko diyan, kailangan ko talagang magtipid sa mga expenses ko.”

She also runs her own tutorial school, but the restrictions to hold face-to-face classes affected her income. 

“Hindi ko maibigay ’yung presyo na binibigay ko before na mataas talaga. So, talagang bargain, binabagsak ko ’yung presyo ko,” she said. 

On the other hand, a communications professor, who also requested anonymity, said she is prepared for the setback. 

She expected this to come, she said. 

“You anticipate problems before they even come to you. So, if you anticipate that there will be low enrollment, you have to look for other jobs,” the educator, who is also an actress, said. 

The major blow to the entertainment and private education sectors could be deemed as a double whammy for her, but she kept herself optimistic to find new opportunities. 

“I’m teaching at other schools. And I do a lot of subtitling and translation work right now so that it keeps me busy, it keeps me creative, and also earn me some income,” she said in confidence. 

“My son is asking me, ‘Mommy, how do you cope with the pandemic?’ I said, ‘It’s chicken feet.’ We’re only talking about 3 months? And I can still do things. I can sit down, I can host meeting, I can do PowerPoint presentations, compared to I was bedridden,” she related, referring to the time she was unable to work for 10 months when she was pregnant with her son. 

Prospero De Vera, chairperson of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), said part-time professors are largely affected by the pandemic. They are also not receiving assistance from the government. 

“’Yung mga part-timers kwan ‘yan eh, no-teach, no-pay. Walang natatanggap na ayuda ang mga ito sa panahon ng pandemya,” he told Teleradyo Wednesday. “Medyo hindi gaanong apektado sa public, ang talagang tinamaan po ng masama ’yung nasa private po.”

Meanwhile, Department of Education (DepEd) Undersecretary Nepomuceno Malaluan on Thursday said there are already 558,000 enrollees in private schools, but this is a small number compared to the 4.3 million enrollees last year. 

There are over 14,000 private schools nationwide, according to Malaluan. 

“We will know doon sa meeting namin next week kung ano ang feedback nitong mga private school associations doon sa monitoring nila doon sa situation ng enrollment in private schools,” he told Teleradyo. 

According to the Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations of the Philippines (COCOPEA), around 2 million students are expected to withdraw from private schools in the next semester, leaving some 400 schools at risk of closure. 

CHEDand DepEd have yet to verify the data.