Legazpi City – To continue education amid disasters is hard but is being won by resourcefulness and dedication of teachers, learners and education advocates in Albay.
Immediately after the lifting of the suspension of classes by the local chief executives in the affected areas of Albay, emergency classes were adopted by the school managers. Shifting of classes to a maximum of three shifts a day were coordinated in order to cater both to the resident learners and displaced learners housed in the schools making use of repaired Temporary Learning Spaces (TLS) built after Typhoon Nina hit the province last December 2016 and other available covered spaces such as halls and shanties within the school or tents donated by other agencies.
A total of 69 schools are being used today as Evacuation Centers with 1,403 classrooms utilized as temporary shelters. Of that number, 1,048 or 75% are already being occupied by the evacuees leaving the learners with very limited classrooms where they can hold classes. As of this writing, the ratio of classroom to evacuees already reached up to 1:66, which means schools are highly congested and additional evacuation centers are needed to transfer other evacuees.
In order not to disrupt classes anymore, Regional Director Ramon Fiel Abcede requested for assistance from the Central Office, three days after the eruption and right after a rapid needs assessment of the schools was conducted. 163 TLS were requested where Secretary Leonor Magtolis Briones quickly responded to by ordering the immediate release of 13 million pesos for the construction of these temporary learning facilities. While evacuation movement continues, and more and more classrooms are utilized by the evacuees, the need for more units of TLS is now reaching a staggering number of 532.
RD Abcede said that DepEd is doing all that can be done within its mandate and available resources.
“Emergency assistance was requested and was already given by the Central Office, we have constant coordination with other lead agencies for calamities like this, teachers and personnel volunteered for camp management, working beyond hours to implement contingency plans just to make sure education for our learners from these affected communities will continue and we have tapped other Schools Division Offices from other provinces to conduct resource mobilization in order to augment the needs of our affected schools.”
“We have to do this, because it is our mandate; we are always reminded by the word of our Secretary that education must continue, it cannot wait,” he added.
Despite the discomfort of holding classes outside their regular classrooms, learners and teachers are painstakingly keeping up, some even manage to plan for their scheduled movingup and graduation exercises comes April 2018.
Meanwhile, some communities occupying small classrooms in the towns of Sto. Domingo and Malilipot, realized that they can also share the burden of securing classrooms for learning; they have built makeshits of light materials such as bamboo poles and anahaw leaves at the back of the school yard and available spaces where they can spend the day while their children are having their classes in the classrooms.
Mt. Mayon’s unpredictable behavior is causing eventualities that even PhiVolcs cannot assure that will last for weeks or months thus it is hoped that proper measures such as decrowding of schools of evacuees to allocate considerable number of classrooms for the learners in a school and establishing a more suitable evacuation sites in other areas are being sought for.