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Classes also begin for pupils displaced by Zamboanga siege

/ 12:05 AM June 03, 2014

ZAMBOANGA CITY—When classes started in three public elementary schools in war-torn villages here on Monday, more than 3,000 pupils shared classrooms with those from nearby schools.

Pedro Melchor Natividad, city schools division superintendent, told the Inquirer that they could do only so much about this problem.

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“We need to make do with what we have, maximize and stretch our resources to bring education closer to our schoolchildren, especially those displaced by war,” he said.

Thousands of families still live in evacuation centers here more than eight months after they left their homes due to clashes between government troops and Moro National Liberation Front forces.

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Natividad said the school buildings in Santa Barbara and Mariki villages—the hardest hit when the violence took place—had not been rehabilitated after being damaged in September last year.

The combined enrollment figure of the two villages then was more than 4,200.

Natividad said the number this year was expected to decrease because many families were still hard-put. Education officials estimated it to be just about 3,000.

The situation, especially the congestion of classrooms, could “last for a year or two, depending on the pace of the rehabilitation by the local government,” Natividad said.

“Our intention is to rebuild Santa Barbara [for example], but it’s not included in the [rehabilitation plan]. They have planned more roads and more houses, but the school is not included,” he said.

He said education officials needed government support because the Brigada Eskwela program was not enough to rehabilitate the school. “We need at least P2 billion,” he said.

Daisy Ebrada, principal of Santa Barbara Elementary School, said more than 90 percent of the school’s facilities— including classrooms—had been damaged.

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She said she pitied the pupils of the school because they would be like “squatters,” sharing spaces with legitimate pupils of their host schools. “But it’s a better option that using tents to learn,” she said.

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TAGS: Balik-Eskwela, Education, News, Regions, School opening
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