With Pepe, Pilar in mind, Drilon bats for Sept. school openingBy Dona Z. Pazzibugan, Norman Bordadora
Philippine Daily Inquirer
So contends Sen. Franklin Drilon who renewed his call on Friday for a change in the country’s school calendar amid frequent and lengthy class suspensions due to the heavy rains and widespread flooding this week.
“The [students’] being absent in school means less absorption and less time to learn,” Drilon said in a statement, adding that the school opening should be rescheduled so as not to coincide with the country’s monsoon season.
In 2010, Drilon filed Senate Bill No. 2407 seeking to amend the Administrative Code so that the school opening date “shall not be earlier than the first day of September nor later than the last day of October of each year unless prevented by fortuitous events.”
The Administrative Code currently gives the secretary of education the discretion to set the opening of classes not earlier than June nor later than the last day of July.
“I am suggesting to Education Secretary Armin Luistro that a decision be made because, in my view, all indications would lead to the need to revise our school year for the benefit of everyone,” Drilon said, noting that classes in most of Metro Manila were suspended for a week due to torrential rains and flooding the past week.
Citing news reports, Drilon added that 168 schools in flooded areas in Luzon had been converted into evacuation centers to accommodate more than 14,000 families affected by continuous rains.
As of Friday, 244 public schools were being used as evacuation centers for 31,800 families, a spike from the 168 schools-turned-evacuation sites for 14,400 families on Monday.
More than half or 139 of the schools are in Metro Manila, while 59 are in Calabarzon (Region 4A) and 46 in Central Luzon (Region 3).
“That scenario is alarming, and what is more disturbing is the fact that just two months since the new school year opened, we are already experiencing a number of class suspensions that could affect the mandated 40 and 36 weeks of classes for elementary and secondary education and in the college level, respectively,” Drilon said.
The chair of the Senate committee on finance cited the administration’s efforts to improve the country’s education system anchored on the K-12 program, but said the program would be for naught if class suspensions caused by inclement weather continued.
“We have this new K-12 system in place, so that students [would] have more years to study and prepare themselves [for] work,” Drilon said.
“However, these suspensions of classes, if not addressed decisively, would affect the quality of graduates we intend to produce,” he added.
Classes by Monday
In a related development, the education department has appealed to communities to help clean up over the weekend the more than 244 public schools used as evacuation centers for over 30,000 families affected by the floods so that classes can resume on Monday.
In a phone interview, Education Assistant Secretary Jesus Mateo on Friday urged families temporarily staying in the evacuation centers to take care of the school facilities “so that we can return to normalcy quicker.”
The schools have been damaged either by the floods or during the evacuation process, he said.
“We’re coordinating with community leaders. If there are no more floods by today
(Aug. 10), the evacuees can return home or transfer to other facilities in the barangay, and we can resume classes by Monday,” Mateo said.
“The sooner we can bring back normalcy, the better for our students,” he said, adding that the Department of Education (DepEd) had left it to the school division superintendents in every city and province to decide how best to make up for the lost school days due to frequent class suspensions.
Schools are required to fill in a total of 180 school days each year.
Mateo also appealed to local government officials and members of the community to help school personnel and teachers in cleaning up the schools over the weekend.
“Let’s go back to Brigada Eskwela,” he said, referring to the DepEd’s annual school cleanup program every start of classes in June. “Our schools are not for DepEd. The community owns those schools so they should be taking care of [them],” Mateo said.
The DepEd has also launched a relief drive for evacuees by offering to receive donations at its central office in Pasig City until Aug. 17.