Tent classrooms up in Panay, Negros
ILOILO CITY—Thousands of elementary and high school students have been attending classes in tents and makeshift classrooms in the northern towns of Panay and Negros over the past two weeks after Supertyphoon “Yolanda” destroyed or damaged their school buildings last month.
The Department of Education (DepEd) reported that a total of 1,042 classrooms were destroyed in the region. It reported to the Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council that at least 2,128 tents were needed in 682 schools.
Yolanda’s monstrous winds blew off the roofs of most classrooms and toppled their walls.
Iloilo province lost the biggest number of classrooms at 538, followed by Capiz province with 394, including 148 in Roxas City. In Negros Occidental province, 42 classrooms were destroyed in the cities of Escalante, Sagay and Cadiz, followed by the provinces of Aklan (41) and Antique (27).
The construction of new classrooms and major repair work could take time because these would have to undergo the government’s procurement process, said John Arnold Siena, officer in charge of the DepEd regional office.
Nongovernment organizations and the United Nations Children’s Fund have already donated tents for the temporary classrooms but Siena said the number was not enough because of the widespread damage to the schools.
Other donors have given tarpaulin sheets as roof covers for the classrooms.
School officials have merged classes or shifted classroom use to address the shortage.
Makeup classes are being held to cover the two weeks that classes were suspended. Last week, school attendance in badly hit areas reached about 75 percent of students but Siena said the figure was expected to improve this week.
“We have asked school officials to locate the students and their parents because they may have evacuated or transferred to other areas after the typhoon,” Siena told the Inquirer.
The DepEd has also extended assistance to teachers and department personnel who were among the storm survivors.
ACT Teachers Rep. Antonio Tinio, however, urged Education Secretary Armin Luistro to immediately extend financial assistance to the teachers and DepEd personnel.
In a statement on Monday, Tinio said that more than a month after the disaster struck, classes were still being held in terrible conditions, such as oven-like tents.
He accused the government of knee-dragging in the repair and rebuilding of schools and offices, forcing some teachers and DepEd personnel “to resort to their own devices and tap into their own funds.”
He cited complaints from teachers and other employees from the Samar, Leyte, Panay, Cebu and other divisions, which had used their own money for repair.