Million-Dollar ‘Kickback’ Could Have Paid For Public School Shortages

Crisis in the Philippine education sector is deepening as manifested by high dropout rate, deteriorating quality, rising resource shortages, and intensifying exploitation of teachers. And yet the highest officials of the country are embroiled in billion-peso anomalies and continue to enrich themselves with public funds with impunity.

Take, for instance, the ZTE corruption scandal that is currently hounding the Arroyo government. The exposed $130 million-“kickback” (or P5.2 billion in current exchange rate) from the $329-million National Broadband Network project with China’s ZTE Corporation would have paid for the following:

  • 44,234,813 textbooks (P2.78 billion)
  • 1,390 classrooms (P760 million)
  • 524,237 school seats (P420 million)
  • 2,733 new teachers (P330 million), and
  • Computer-related expenses of 98 schools (P910 million).

The ZTE “kickback” could have covered almost 62% of the P8.4-billion total cost of the Department of Education’s estimated 2008 resource gaps, which include classrooms, seats, teachers, principals, and textbooks.

Moreover, a year’s computer expenses of 100 public schools make up barely 0.2% of the controversial loot. Based on the 2006 Commission on Audit report that said schoolchildren from over 100 public schools were compelled to pay a total of P9.26 million for computers and operating costs of computer laboratories, the ZTE “kickback” would easily liberate all public schools (45,430) from charging their students such fees, and still leave P993 million more to spare. P993 million can actually pay for the basic salary of 1,665 public school teachers for five years.

This only shows how much losses from corruption could possibly resolve inadequacies in the education sector and free poor families from the burden of additional school expenses. Corruption heavily affects the poor majority as it reduces the already scant amount spent for social services, making their delivery worse than ever.

As educators committed to social transformation, the Educators’ Forum for Development (EFD) condemns the fraud, lies, and thievery in the Arroyo administration and joins other sectors in the clamor for change, not only of governance but of the whole system that breeds corruption.

The overall lack of accountability and transparency, and the persistent question of legitimacy of the Arroyo government, show that the fight against corruption lies with the people who must assert good governance and protection of their rights. EFD believes that educators have a special role in molding future generations who will uphold integrity and social responsibility and stand against any form of corruption.

*The Educators’ Forum for Development (EFD) is an association of educators committed to social transformation. It was established in 2002 by the IBON Partnership in Education for Development and other progressive educators, including founding chairperson Bienvenido Lumb

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