June 6, 2011

RP government ensures order as 25.7M students troop back to school

THE GOVERNMENT has ensured adequate security to put order in today’s opening of classes, with 25.7 million students expected to troop to schools nationwide, a Palace official said at the weekend.

"We are prepared for the first day of classes... The police units and local government units (LGUs) have also been notified to be on top of the opening of classes tomorrow," said Deputy Spokesperson Abigail D. Valte.

The Palace, nonetheless, still appealed for vigilance among authorities even with preparations so far implemented by the Department of Education (DepEd) as lead, and the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority prepared to address the volume of traffic.

"To all the officials concerned and agencies concerned, let’s make sure that the opening of classes goes smoothly, to secure the children. Let’s make sure that the first day goes well, not just for the first day of school, but for the rest of the school year," said Ms. Valte.

For his part, Education Undersecretary Tonisito M. C. Umali said that the DepEd has activated Oplan Balik Eskwela (OBE), a joint undertaking of the DepEd, Department of Interior and Local Government and Philippine National Police.

Parents can inquire after their children’s needs from tuition to security, said Mr. Umali, at the OBE Information and Command Center at the department’s central office in Pasig City and regional offices nationwide.

"We are managing the traffic with the police and have set up action centers in 199 school divisions and 17 regional offices, apart from the central station which is being manned by 50-70 people... We’re confident that we’ll be very okay," said Mr. Umali, in a phone interview.

Prior to the launch of OBE, the DepEd had also revived the Brigada Eskwela on May 24-28, or National Schools Maintenance Week, which entailed preparation of classrooms for the onset of classes.

Under the program, the citizenry and private corporations help in cleaning classrooms and making minor repairs and rehabilitation, even donating tables and chairs.

Meanwhile, President Benigno S. C. Aquino III today will witness the ceremonial turnover of 454 units of two-classroom school buildings that were pledged by the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Inc. (FFCCCII).

This after he administers the oaths of office to the new officers of FFCCCII in Malacañang.
The Filipino-Chinese umbrella business group has a network of 170 member organizations nationwide and has administered a schoolbuilding program since 2002. The program has so far built around 1,400 classrooms.

The program is expected to provide learning facilities in the provinces of Benguet, Bulacan, Laguna, Iloilo, Negros Occidental, Cebu, Zamboanga and Davao this year.

The country is facing an estimated shortage of 152,569 classrooms, according to a study made by the Education department for 2010-2011, based on a ratio of 45 students to one classroom.

Mr. Umali said the ratio of classrooms to student population should be 1:45 in grade school and high school, and 1:25 in kindergarten, but admitted funding limitations in achieving the target. "We lack the funds... [but] there are also ongoing major repair efforts for classrooms that will hopefully be finished in two to three years," said Mr. Umali, adding that 80% of the DepEd’s P207.3-billion 2011 budget goes to salaries of 550,000 teaching and non-teaching staff. -- Johanna Paola D. Poblete


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