80% of public schools have building defectsBy Dona Z. Pazzibugan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
When it rains, it really pours. That is, as far as the public schools are concerned.
Add to the country’s severe lack of classrooms the woes of structural defects found in 80 percent of public school buildings inspected by the Department of Education (DepEd) and Department of Public Works and Highways last year.
The random inspection found that eight of 10 of some 1,300 public schools suffer from structural defects that include cracks on walls, roofs and floors due to the building’s age.
The buildings are still being used after repairs have been done, according to Luis Purisima Jr., assistant chief of the DepEd’s Physical Facilities and Schools Engineering Division.
“The DepEd will not allow a structure to be used if it’s not safe,” Purisima said in a forum arranged by the University of the Philippines Diliman’s College of Engineering.
On its own initiative, the DepEd and the DPWH inspected 1,334 of the total 45,971 public school buildings in the country. Government engineers conducted a similar inspection of 2,292 school buildings and found structural defects in about 60 percent, or 1,412 of them.
Purisima said the buildings were constructed in the 1960s and 1970s, with their defects attributed to age and use over the years.
To date, the DepEd official said, about a third or 149,527 of the total 462,320 classrooms in all public schools in the country require “major repairs.” Almost 20 percent or 95,044 classrooms require “minor repairs,” he added.
Professor Benito Pacheco, UP Diliman vice chancellor for research and development, said all school buildings have to be assessed “even if they’re not showing any cracks” since they could be vulnerable to strong earthquakes.
A memorandum of agreement is in the works between the DepEd and the Philippine Institute of Civil Engineers to train DepEd engineers to evaluate schools for earthquake resistance.
According to Purisima, school repairs are funded by the DepEd’s basic educational facilities fund (BEFF) and the quick response fund (QRF) which are apart from the department’s regular school building program.
Of the DepEd’s 600,000 personnel, only seven are engineers and three are architects in the central office, with 17 regional facilities supervisors and 205 division facilities supervisors.
To compensate for this lack, the deparment hires 183 engineers and architects on a per-project basis to supervise the year-round construction of classrooms and major repairs. But most of them still end up supervising an average of 10 simultaneous projects because of their limited number.
There was no DepEd data on the number of school buildings inspected in the last five years.