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DepEd’s Taal challenge: 30K students displaced

In this photo provided by the Office of Civil Defense, volcanic ash covers most of the roofs at villages in Batangas province, southern Philippines on Friday Jan. 17, 2020. Taal volcano remains life-threatening despite weaker emissions and fewer tremors, an official said Friday and advised thousands of displaced villagers not to return to the danger zone. (Office of Civil Defense via AP)

BATANGAS CITY—Where do you put over 30,000 students displaced by the eruption of Taal Volcano on Sunday, now that most schools in unaffected areas are being used as evacuation centers?

It’s a problem that the Department of Education (DepEd) has to grapple with since several lakeshore towns were put on lockdown following the calamity.In a briefing with public school officials here on Friday, the DepEd said 78 public and 13 private schools were “abandoned” after authorities implemented forced evacuations this week.“That [means] 30,000 additional learners [for unaffected schools] and about 1,000 displaced DepEd personnel,” said DepEd Undersecretary Alain Del Pascua.

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The displaced teachers and school personnel would have to be deployed to other schools, he said.

Alternate sites

Also on Friday, the DepEd issued a memorandum ordering schools in unaffected areas to accept the displaced learners “with or without” their school records and documentation.

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These children can just go to the nearest public school to resume their studies, said Education Secretary Leonor Briones.

The DepEd will also begin “tracking” the students, some of whose families have evacuated to other provinces or in Metro Manila after the volcanic eruption chased them out of what has now been declared permanent danger zones.

With Taal Volcano still on alert level 4, which means hazardous eruption was imminent within hours or days, Briones said the situation involving public schools remained “really fluid,” making planning and anticipation “difficult.”

The DepEd said the government was looking for alternate sites aside from public school classrooms where evacuees can be relocated.

“We need to find a solution because classes cannot resume if they are still there,” Briones told reporters on Friday, adding that temporary learning spaces should be built so as not to disrupt classes unnecessarily.

Temporary shelters

The official made the remarks on the sidelines of the launch of the Duterte Legacy in Pasay City.

The DepEd chief said Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea has advised local executives in the Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon) region to “identify spaces where temporary shelters can be put up.”According to the DepEd, 178 schools (or 1,147 classrooms) all over Calabarzon were now being used as evacuation centers for 8,295 families composed of 38,926 individuals. This however meant the disruption of classes for 10,099 students.

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Additional class days

“We don’t want to sacrifice or disrupt the children’s classes because the school buildings are their home,” Briones said, adding that the DepEd was negotiating with the local government to identify spaces where temporary shelters for evacuees can be put up so children can resume their classes.

Affected schools would have to extend class hours or have additional class days so that students can catch up with the required number of school days.

“We have a requirement of more than 200 days,” Briones said.

As for teachers who were also affected by the volcano’s eruption, the education secretary said that while she understands their plight, they’d still have to work if they want to get paid.“They can refuse, they can also not refuse. But in our experience, they don’t refuse,” Briones said.

“They also have problems and lost their homes, and so on, but that’s why we encourage them to take advantage of loans,” she added.

DepEd Regional Director Wilfredo Cabral said it was up to the local governments of unaffected areas to decide when to resume classes “once their campuses had been cleared” of ashfall.

Classes in Batangas and in the adjacent provinces of Laguna and Cavite have remained suspended since the eruption, although only one public school at Barangay Buso-buso in Laurel town, Batangas province, was damaged after its ash-covered roof caved in.

The DepEd said it would begin preparing for the assessment and rehabilitation of school buildings in affected areas, although reopening them will have to depend on the recommendation of disaster risk managers on whether it was safe to return to their communities.

Imminent danger

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology has warned of imminent danger because of the continuing seismic activities of the volcano.

On Friday, the Batangas Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said the number of towns on lockdown, after their entire populations were evacuated, increased from four (Talisay, Laurel, Agoncillo and Lemery) to 14, with the inclusion of adjacent municipalities within the 14-to 17-kilometer radius danger zone.

Inquirer calls for support for the victims of Taal volcano eruption
Responding to appeals for help, the Inquirer is extending its relief to the families affected by the recent eruption of Taal volcano.
Cash donations may be deposited in the Inquirer Foundation Corp. Banco De Oro (BDO) Current Account No: 007960018860.
Inquiries may be addressed and emailed to Inquirer’s Corporate Affairs office through [email protected]
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TAGS: Department of Education, DepEd Undersecretary Alain Del Pascua, Education Secretary Leonor Briones, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Taal Volcano
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