Schools as shelters: DepEd chief wants Taal evacuees out of schools for class resumption

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 17 2020 02:27 PM

Evacuees settle for the night at the Bauan Technical High School in Batangas City, Jan. 14, 2020. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - Families staying in schools after fleeing the Taal Volcano eruption should be relocated to other evacuation sites since classes have to resume immediately, Education Secretary Leonor Briones said Friday.

Insisting that “a choice has to be made,” Briones said the eruption of the volcano disrupted the classes in 168 schools because classrooms were used as evacuation centers by 9,120 families in the Southern Tagalog region.

“Kailangan talaga hanapan ng solusyon dahil hindi naman puwede na hindi ipagpatuloy ang klase ng mga bata,” she told reporters on the sidelines of President Rodrigo Duterte’s legacy campaign launch in Pasay City.

(We need to find a solution because we cannot stop the resumption of classes)

The 79-year-old Briones, who is scheduled to visit Batangas on Friday, said she would appeal to local government officials to find other spaces where evacuees could stay.

Public schools in the Philippines are often used for a variety of purposes other than education, such as evacuation sites, town meeting venues, and election booths.

“We are trying to solve the problem of learners whose classes have been suspended by negotiating with the local governments involved, the governors, mayors and so on so they can identify spaces where they can put up temporary shelters for the evacuees so the students can go back to school,” Briones said.

As of Friday, Taal Volcano remains under alert level 4, which warns of a hazardous eruption in the coming hours or days. Thousands in the Southern Tagalog region were displaced since Sunday after the volcano belched gray ash and steam, with the ashfall reaching as far as Central Luzon.

Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, according to Briones, also advised local government officials to put up multipurpose centers that could serve as evacuation sites in times of calamities.

The disruption will prompt schools to hold classes on holidays or extend the hours of learning on a daily basis to make up for the lost school days, Briones said.

“Kailangan babawi tayo kasi there are lost days sa pag-aaral,” she said.

(We need to make up for the lost school days.)