Happy reunions, absent peers in Mindanao schools | Inquirer News

Happy reunions, absent peers in Mindanao schools

Teacher at the Mapandi Elementary School in Marawi. STORY: Happy reunions, absent peers in Mindanao schools

GUIDING HANDS: A teacher guides a pupil during the simulation exercises on Feb. 3 to prepare for the opening of limited in-person classes at Mapandi Elementary School in Barangay Gadongan, Marawi City, on Feb. 14. (Photo by DIVINA M. SUSON / Inquirer Mindanao)

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Zamboanga del Sur, Philippines — Excitement was palpable as students set foot at Culianan National High School here for the first time on Monday after more than two years of the pandemic.

Angeline Colonia, a Grade 11 student, said it was awkward seeing familiar faces who seemed to be strangers after a long break.


She and Rose Faustino were among the 14 young weightlifters of Barangay Pasabolong, who brought home gold medals during the recent Uzbekistan World Youth Weightlifting Competition. Six of the Pasabolong lifters are enrolled at Culianan National High School, which has 4,140 students.


School principal Abelardo Brutas Jr. said they have two class shifts in order to accommodate all students—one from 6 a.m. to noon, and the other from noon to 6 p.m. But students who are from far-flung communities of Lugakit, Guisao, Lanzonez and Pangulayan chose to come to school two hours earlier for their afternoon shift.

At Bihing Tahik Elementary School, almost 400 students, mostly Badjaos, trooped to their classrooms, which stand on stilts, on Monday.

Mina Shella Rosos, the school principal, said that they had difficulties accommodating all students because most of the classrooms were worn out after these were used as shelters for families displaced during the September 2013 siege in this city.

“We received help from various donors to rehabilitate these shelters and four were converted into classrooms but the spaces are not according to standards,” she said. “What makes us happy is seeing parents and learners showing interest in education.”

Low enrollment

While the school reopening brings a happy reunion for many, some others are still absent from the campuses, for various reasons.

As of Tuesday, the enrollment quick count of the Department of Education (DepEd) showed that 5,990,920 students enlisted for kindergarten to senior high school throughout Mindanao, short by 861,862 to match the enrollment level of the previous school year.


The largest gap is in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, at 261,405, and the lowest in Caraga region—which was heavily battered by Typhoon “Odette” (international name: Rai) in December—at 64,069.

Director Carlito Rocafort of DepEd in the Soccsksargen region said the dip in enrollment figures could largely be attributed to delayed enlistment and reporting of some schools, although he also acknowledged that some parents expressed apprehension about COVID-19.


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DepEd touts hitch-free opening of classes


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