The teachers and their co-op

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It was published in another local weekly newspaper last Sunday of teachers being sued by their own co-ops at the Legal Office of the DepEd-CAR for non-payment of debts. As we all know, the low salary of teachers are almost always to be blamed for their plight. They are forced to borrow in order to augment their meager salaries so they could make ends meet even if they know the repayment will be difficult. It is an unavoidable trap.

I hope something can be done about this. A teacher who went to visit schools overseas told me that if we compare our teachers with their counterparts abroad, there is a wide disparity.  Teachers in other countries are one of the highest paid professionals. A housemaid abroad even receives a salary way higher than our teachers. That is why it is very tempting to leave their license here in exchange for a bigger pay as a domestic helper.

It is always painful to read about co-ops suing their own members. We have been preaching that the co-op should pursue the improvement of the economic lives of their members and not to let them sink into debt they are unable to get out of. We are thankful that the co-op is there to provide the money needed for emergencies. But let us consider the social obligation of the co-op to their members. The co-op should teach their members how to manage their finances. The co-op should teach their members to be entrepreneurs so that they will be able to borrow money in order to make money. We have to teach them other skills so that they can engage in business ventures other than selling Avon and Tupperware or one of those herbal products.

The intriguing part is that the teachers from far-flung areas are the ones being sued. All along, I thought that rural based professionals have economic advantage over those based in the the urban areas. First, their expenses for food are far lesser than the ones in the city simply because they can grow their own food. In the city, you have to buy everything. Second, living is more simpler in the provinces. You do not have to spend for simple pleasures. But of course, this is just my opinion having been raised in a very rural area myself of parents who are both teachers.

There is one advice I cannot forget which I learned from my mentors. They said, it is not how much money you make that is important. It is how to make most of what you make that matters. I have observed that there are people holding high paying jobs but they are almost drowning in a sea of unpaid obligations. It seems strange but true. I also know of one holding a janitorial position but he has investments. If we can learn a thing or two from this statement, then there is a chance we can extricate ourselves from this trap we are all in.

Recently, I attended the 17th National Educator’s Cooperative Summit and General Assembly of the Philippine Federation of Teachers & Employees Cooperatives (PFTEC) last May 14-15, 2015 here in Baguio City. Their theme is to “Put Teachers at the Heart of Coop Economy, Your Passport to Security”. This federation of teachers’ co-op vows to help teachers erase the degrading identity of teachers who are tagged as “taga-London” (loan dito, loan doon).

I hope this Federation of School Teachers Co-op will be able to read this column and be of assistance to alleviate the plight of these teachers mentioned last week.

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