THIS 14-year-old program of the Department of Education (DepEd) that brings people together to prepare public school facilities for the opening of classes continues to strengthen the spirit of volunteerism among Filipinos.
The weeklong Brigada Eskwela started on May 15 where community service and stakeholders’ participation were the highlights. In Davao Region, the kickoff ceremony of Brigada Eskwela was in Calinan National High School (CNHS). The caravan started at 7 a.m. from DepEd Regional Office to its endpoint in CNHS.
Regional Director Alberto Escobarte spearheaded the event together with some regional office employees. Victoria Catibog, undersecretary for Finance and Blanquita Dolores Bautista, chief of the Communications Division, also joined the launching of Brigada Eskwela.
Escobarte said Brigada Eskwela is a continuing reminder to all of us that the whole community has an essential role to play in the development of our learners.
“Strong community support is essential to address learning gaps, achieve higher learning outcomes, and school improvement,” Escobarte said.
He added that Davao Region targets to match its performance last year with more than half a million volunteers and about 200 million resources generated.
Last year, the country generated a total of more than seven billion worth of resources which include donated materials and services for maintenance, repairs, and replacements rendered during the weeklong activities.
This is about 44 percent increase from the four billion generated in 2015. It is an increasing trend every year for Brigada Eskwela. And each year, new set of volunteers go to schools to serve.
Ritchell Cruz, principal of Compostela National High School, shared his observations on the kinds of volunteers he encounters in school.
He said there are those he calls champions who work hard whole day and there are regular volunteers who stop working when the sun’s heat becomes unbearable.
There are compliant volunteers who are driven to work because of an agreement imposed by the chairman of the purok while there are early birds who directly clean the grounds even if the registration desk is not yet open.
Cruz also mentioned about the documenter type who can’t do without taking “selfie” or “groufie” or shots in every angle of work and there are MVPs (most valuable players) who would bring donations and manpower and gets the task done with his or her command. But all types of volunteers contribute to the success of Brigada Eskwela.
Catibog shared how Brigada Eskwela has gone a long way from its birth in 2003.
After 14 years, the program has become a byword in recognition of its importance, she said mentioning Brigada Eskwela Plus as its product.
In Brigada Eskwela Plus, she said, school maintenance activities are done throughout the year. There is a community-led effort to improve participation and performance, and reduce dropout or enrollment to Alternative Learning System.
Escobarte emphasized the desire of the region to increase the number of Brigada Eskwela best implementing schools Hall of Fame awardees.
At present, Davao Region has accumulated 12 Hall of Famers. It is not easy though to become a Brigada Eskwela best implementing school.
The schools have to pass first the criteria of selection which include the number of parent volunteers and others, the scope of work done, the resources generated, creativity and innovation done in the school, increment of resources and volunteers, and alignment to this year’s BE theme.
Themed “Isang DepEd, Isang Pamayanan, Isang Bayanihan Para sa Handa at Ligtas na Paaralan,” the school and the community see to it that the school is not just facilities-ready but also safe to all kinds of learners.
Thus, an earthquake drill was also done during Brigada Eskwela. DepEd continues to remind the community that Brigada Eskwela is purely an act of volunteerism. This means the participation is not mandatory and requisite for enrollment.
More so, no Brigada Eskwela fees shall be solicited from volunteers. With this, the program brings to us a picture of people from different sectors who choose to contribute their time, resources, and effort in repainting the walls, cleaning the surroundings, fixing the chairs and desks, repairing electric wires, ceiling and roofs, and many others.
This was also the reminder I gave to the taxi driver during the first day of BE when I heard him talking to his wife on the phone and said, “Ihatud lang nako ako pasahero tapos diretso nako sa school kay brigade na (I will just drive my passenger to their destination and then proceed to the school for Brigada).”
I asked him why he needed to be there as early as 7 a.m. He said, “Basi di ka enroll akong anak (The school might not accept my child for enrolment).”
So I told him that Brigada Eskwela is never mandatory but it is our way, as parents, to help our children go to a clean, safe, and conducive for learning school. From that moment, Roland, the driver, said, “Dako bitaw kayo tabang ang Brigada, ma’am, kay ganahan ako anak na musulod kay limpyo daw kayo ilang school tapos mahatagan pa gyud usahay ug mga free notebook (Brigada helps a lot. It makes my child look forward to going to school because it's clean and sometimes they even get free notebooks from the volunteers).”
This and many more are stories of hope for parents who want their children experience best education in spite of simplicity in life. A reminder is also given that DepEd cannot enter into partnership with any tobacco company. For the teachers, the complete six-day participation from May 15 to 20 in Brigada Ewkwela entitles them to a three-day service credit.
There was also a signing of Memorandum of Agreement between Davao Region and the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) on the utilization of Starbooks, a Science digital library.
DOST Regional Director Anthony Sales said Starbooks encourages great and curious minds to develop new ideas and innovations.
The week-long Brigada Eskwela in Davao Region was participated in by parents, students, community members, government employees, private companies, and some local officials. (Maria Gemima C. Valderrama)