Iloilo town to hold classes in tents for a year
ILOILO CITY—Thousands of elementary pupils and high school students in areas hit by Supertyphoon “Yolanda” in Western Visayas will have to attend classes in tents and makeshift structures until the end of the school year, a Department of Education (DepEd) official said.
John Arnold Siena, officer in charge of the DepEd regional
office, said the national government has yet to bid out projects to either replace or repair classrooms destroyed or damaged by Yolanda.
“The government needs to follow bidding processes and regulations,” he said.
At least 1,042 classrooms in the region were destroyed when Yolanda, carrying winds of up to 300 kilometers per hour, struck on Nov. 8. Thousands of other classrooms had been damaged, according to the DepEd.
The damaged and destroyed classrooms were in 682 schools, mostly in northern Iloilo, Capiz, Aklan, Antique and northern Negros.
Siena said schools with damaged or destroyed classrooms each received P30,000 for initial repairs and to build makeshift classrooms. Tents to be used as classrooms have been provided by private groups and relief organizations.
Initial repairs have been undertaken by communities through donations of parents, residents and organizations. These include covering damaged classroom roofs with tarpaulin sheets.
Siena said school attendance has been increasing after Yolanda struck, reaching 90-98 percent even in areas worst hit by the storm.
Classes in damaged schools have been merged or rotated to maximize the use of classrooms that survived the storm’s onslaught.
In Iloilo, health officials have recommended the closure of the Botongon Elementary School in Estancia town due to its proximity to the shore, which has been contaminated by an oil spill.
Dr. Glen Alonsabe, regional epidemiologist, said children face health hazards because the cleanup of the coastline has not been completed and the school is within a 20-meter radius that authorities declared as off limits.
Alonsabe said children and their parents have complained of foul odor from bunker fuel.
Officials evacuated 2,000 residents of Botongon on Nov. 23 after toxicity level in the air reached 15 times the limit due to the spread of bunker fuel.
A power barge had slammed the coastline of the village at the height of Yolanda, spilling hundreds of thousands of liters of bunker fuel.
Classes were held at an evacuation center at the Northern Iloilo Polytechnic State College until the villagers were allowed to return to Botongon on Dec. 20.
The cleanup is expected to last for several months.