MANILA - As it prepares for the opening of classes on September 13, the Department of Education (DepEd) launched this year's Brigada Eskwela through a virtual kick off Tuesday, hosted by Tagum City, Davao Del Norte under DepEd Region 11.
Brigada Eskwela is an annual activity for Philippine schools. Traditionally, school personnel, parents, and communities, equipped with the help of stakeholders, physically go to schools to clean, paint, and do minor repairs.
Based on DepEd Memorandum 048 series of 2021, the traditional concept "will still not happen" amid the COVID pandemic, but activities may still be dependent on quarantine classifications per area.
"...Considering the schools are being used in the preparation of the learning packets, including the picking up and returning of the same by the parents, physical cleaning and disinfection may be allowed during the two weeks before the opening of classes in public schools, depending on the prevailing local risk classification and community quarantine guidelines," the memo read.
"If allowed, the schools shall strictly comply with protocols on social distancing and implement precautionary measures consistent with the IATF health protocols, DOH protection protocols, local quarantine rules and all other relevant protocols provided in DepEd and DepEd Task Force COVID-19 issuances."
DepEd Usec. Tonisito Umali said this year's focus would be on forging partnerships with communities and stakeholders, consistent with the theme "Bayanihan para sa Paaralan".
Other activities slated under Brigada Eskwela include "Brigada Pagbasa" and "Home Learning Spaces".
"Kung noong araw, tayo po ay nagvo-volunteer kung gustong maglinis ng paaralan... Ngayon po Brigada Pagbasa, 'Gusto ko pong mag-volunteer, gusto ko pong magturo sa ating mga anak.' Hindi naman po kinakailangang hindi marunong magbasa pero iyong marunong magbasa, after-school tutorial program," Umali said.
Meanwhile, the Teachers' Dignity Coalition (TDC) asked DepEd to ensure the safety of its personnel who will take part in the annual activity.
“We believe that the community cooperation helps a lot in the maintenance of our schools, which is the primary purpose of this Brigada Eskwela. However, we are currently in a different situation, especially in areas where high number of COVID-19 infections particularly the dreaded Delta variant are recorded," TDC National Chairperson Benjo Basas said in a statement.
“We urged the good secretary to make a categorical policy on this. I hope she will listen to our teachers now."
Brigada Eskwela 2021 will run from August 3 to September 30.
DepEd Sec. Leonor Briones said the education sector must prioritize the continuity of education for the youth, instead of "finger pointing" amid the "unpredictable environment" brought by the pandemic.
Briones recalled how President Rodrigo Duterte initially approved the pilot implementation of limited face to face classes in January, but had to withdraw his decision due to the threat of the UK variant at that time.
"Now, at a time when the president is listening to feedback, to data, reading data that we submit to him, results of researches, experiences of other countries... Now that he is also softening towards the idea of pilot studies, now we have the variant which is even more threatening, more dangerous, and perhaps more vicious. And so we have to adjust all the time," she said.
Briones assured the agency monitors the country's health situation every day, which plays a major part in their decision making, especially on the possible reopening of schools.
"We will be watching every day, as advised by the Department of Health. The risk assessment is still very crucial, whether we have face to face, whether we will use a particular approach or not, whether our students will be allowed to go out. And we are also watching what is happening in other countries," Briones said.
As distance learning remains the mode of instruction for basic education, the official said DepEd continues to innovate and learn from its experiences.