Brigada Eskwela starts Monday

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Sunday, May 22, 2011


THE Department of Education (DepEd) will formally launch Monday this year's "Brigada Eskwela" as it gears up for the expected influx of students when classes formally opened on June 6 after the two-month long summer break.

Education Secretary Armin Luistro will lead the launch of the week-long activity with a caravan from the DepEd Central Office in Pasig City to the Bago Bantay Elementary School in Bago, Bantay, Quezon City, where a brief program will be held.

Aside from Luistro, also attending the activity are Education Undersecretaries Yolanda Quijano and Alberto Muyot, Assistant Secretaries Jesus Lorenzo Mateo and Armando Ruiz, as well as DepEd-National Capital Region Director Elena Ruiz and Brigada Eskwela project manager Merle Asprer.

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Luistro said similar activities will also be held in the regions and provinces spearheaded by their respective DepEd regional directors, superintendents and principals.

The DepEd chief encouraged the department employees to participate in the annual clean-up and repair activity, saying the time they spend on Brigada Eskwela or the National Schools Maintenance Week will be credited to their official time.

"All DepEd employees are encouraged to join the Brigada Eskwela activities by offering their skills or providing their support in kind to public schools near their residences. Interested employees are given two days to do volunteer work on official time, provided that such work is approve by their head or office," Luistro said.

Brigada Eskwela is an annual schools' clean-up and repair activity spearheaded by DepEd, with the cooperation of non-government organizations, parents, students, teachers, the business community and civic organizations.

Instead of cash donations, participants to the clean-up drive donate construction and cleaning materials, or serve as volunteers to prepare the schools two weeks before the opening of classes.

The education department is expecting more than 20 million students to troop to the 38,351 public elementary schools and 7,274 public secondary schools nationwide.

Luistro said that last year, Brigada was able to generate an equivalent amount of more than P1.7 billion from donation in kinds and man-hours spend in school repairs.

When the activity was first launched in 2003, participation rate was only at a dismal 31 percent. DepEd, however, said that since it was made an institutional event in 2008, participation rate of schools stood at 100 percent.

Two international donor agencies -- the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAid) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAid) - have confirmed their participation in the Brigada Eskwela by adopting public schools for repair and refurbishing, particularly in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Armm).

Oplan Balik Eskwela

Aside from the Brigada Eskwela, Luistro has also ordered the implementation of the Oplan Balik Eskwela (OBE) from May 31 to June 10 to ensure the smooth opening of classes.

The order also called for the setting up of the OBE-Interagency Task Force to foster greater coordination with other government agencies, such as the Department of Trade and Industry, Department of National Defense, Department of Interior and Local Government, Department of Public Works and Highways and the Department of Health, as well as the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority and the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration.

The DepEd will also set up information and action centers at its central office in Pasig City, as well as at the department's regional and division offices to be manned 24 hours for the duration of the OBE project.

Hotlines to receive calls, text and fax messages and emails on complaints and concern of the parents and students, as well as a help desk would also be set up during that period.

Budget woes

Even as preparation for the school's opening are shifting to high gear, a youth party-list group said budget woes and the perennial shortages of classrooms, textbooks, and teachers will once again greet the opening of classes despite the 19 percent hike in the funding allocated to DepEd this school year.

Kabataan party-list Representative Raymond Palatino said this year's opening of classes is no different from the previous years when the country's public education sector is overwhelmed by the influx of elementary and secondary students.

This happened despite DepEd's budget hike from last year's P175 billion to P207 billion, the first time that the allocation for basic education has breached the P200 billion mark, said Palatino.

"The school opening in June will once again bring to light harsh educational realities. The lack of education budget imperils a smooth school opening as shortages in textbooks, chairs, classrooms and teachers continue to plague basic education," he said.

He also said that there is still a shortage of some 93,599 elementary and secondary school teachers since the government has only allocated P1.65 billion, enough to hire 10,000 new teachers this year, while classroom shortages stood at 134,400.

The DepEd has allocated P12.45 billion for the construction of new classrooms this school year.

In school furniture (chairs, tables), Palatino said DepEd has a shortage of 12,056, 919. The department has allotted P1.15 billion to offset the deficit.

The DepEd has also set aside P5.83 billion for scholarship slots under the Government Assistance to Students and Teachers in Private Education.

Palatino said DepEd needs an additional P140 billion on top of this year's funding to cope with the shortages. (AH/Sunnex)

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