LEGAZPI CITY, ALBAY, February 14, 2018 – Pursuant to the directive of Department of Education (DepEd) Secretary Leonor Magtolis Briones that education must continue despite adversities, DepEd Region V instituted various mechanisms and interventions to ensure that children learn amid Mayon volcano’s uncertain condition.
Emergency classes were held upon the lifting of suspension by local government heads in the affected areas of Albay as early as January 23. Part of the Region’s contingency plan is the implementation of three class shifts a day to cater to both resident and displaced learners using temporary learning spaces (TLS) and other available spaces such as covered halls and tents donated by stakeholders.
To date, 53 schools with 905 classrooms are being used as temporary evacuation centers and to house 17,522 families and 58,444 individuals. DepEd Region V has identified 20,086 learners in evacuation centers. With only 325 classrooms available to conduct classes, DepEd - Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Service (DRRMS) immediately released funds for the construction of 196 TLS and mulls the construction of additional units.
DepEd Region V Director Ramon Fiel Abcede launched Oplan Sagip Eskwela last January 26 to implement an eight-fold disaster response that includes providing TLS and hygiene kits, administering Psychological First Aid (PFA) to both learners and teachers, and crafting coordination mechanisms for learning interventions.
“Teachers and personnel volunteered for camp management, working beyond official hours to implement contingency plans just to make sure that education will continue for our learners from the affected communities,” he shared. “We have also tapped the Schools Division Offices from other provinces to conduct resource mobilization in order to augment the needs of our schools.”
Despite the unconventional learning conditions, teachers and learners strive to keep up with the curriculum and learning competencies, and are even planning for their scheduled moving-up and graduation exercises come April 2018.
“As I have mentioned time and again, we should guarantee that whatever happens, be it armed conflict or natural disasters, education must always continue in order to restore normalcy among our learners’ lives,” Briones said.
Oplan Sagip Eskwela
Aside from the provision of learning spaces, DepEd will also distribute 33,582 hygiene kits containing toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, soap, face towels, nail cutters, comb, and face masks for affected learners.
To address the emotional distress caused by the Mayon’s eruptions, DepEd has started administering Psychological First Aid (PFA) sessions for learners. Around 260 learners in 13 schools have received PFA interventions, while teachers have undergone capacity-building sessions in conducting PFA for their students.
Soup kitchens, soap bars, PFA references, and repair materials for damaged TLS were also provided by partners including Gawad Kalinga, Educo, Children International, and the Office of the Civil Defense in Region V.
The Department also eyes additional support within DepEd by tapping into the twinning and pairing system which was also implemented in the Brigada Eskwela sa Marawi (BESM) last December 2017.
Coordination with the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) and Department of Health (DOH) in Region V has been strengthened through DepEd’s active participation in the Basic Information Communications Operations Link (BICOL).
DepEd is also adopting the Guidelines on Evacuation Center Coordination and Management, as stipulated in DepEd Memorandum (DM) No. 58, s. 2015, entitled “Dissemination of DEPED-DSWD-DILG-DOH Joint Memorandum Circular No. 1, s. 2013” aimed at ensuring the holistic protection of learners in times of natural hazards and displacement.
Finally, the Department has also shared venues for potential interventions from partners through its External Partnerships Service (EPS).