FOR most public schools, the week intended for Brigada Eskwela is spent repairing any damage inside the classrooms and cleaning the school’s surroundings.
But for a small elementary school located beside a creek in Barangay Guizo, Mandaue City, it is also a time to plan how to protect the school from floods.
Knee-deep or sometimes even chest-deep flood is no longer new to the community that depends on the Mayor A.S. Fortuna Memorial Elementary School (MASFMES).
Last Friday, a SunStar Cebu team chanced upon Vivian Solamo, a Grade 1 teacher for 15 years, sweeping and scrubbing the floor inside her classroom.
“Inig baha ani, lapok na pud ni (Once it floods, this floor will be covered by mud),” she said.
Inside the room, a file cabinet and bookshelf are attached to the wall, instead of being placed on the floor.
Solamo said they made it that way to keep the materials dry in case water from the creek enters the classrooms during heavy rains. As a precaution, she brings the more important documents like the permanent class record to her home.
There are a total of 22 classrooms in the school. Of these, 13 are on the ground floor. Last year, these were shared by 31 teachers and 1,064 students.
School principal Leduvina Andrino said the number of teachers is not a problem in their school. The school officials’ main concerns are the flooding and the fact that six dilapidated classrooms are still being used.
During heavy rains, the creek overflows and sends water into some of the rooms.
There was a plan in the previous administration to elevate the property, for which the students would have had to transfer, but only temporarily, to the Mandaue City Central School.
This hasn’t happened yet.
Plans for safety
During a Local School Board (LSB) meeting last March, Principal Andrino heard about a plan to move the MASFMES to a vacant lot behind the Cebu International Convention Center.
Another plan was to build a four-story, eight-classroom building on the school’s location.
The school principal said that the funds were supposed to be provided by the Department of Education. However, an engineer from DepEd’s Mandaue City office told Andrino that the allocation for that would be included in the 2018 budget yet.
“I hope their plans will be realized to make the school safer for the students,” said Andrino.
In a separate interview, Mandaue City Mayor Gabriel Luis Quisumbing told SunStar Cebu that the City is finishing the drainage master plan to address flooding, not only in the school in Guizo, but also other areas.
Quisumbing, who chairs the LSB, wants the drainage master plan finished so that government funds invested on flood prevention and other projects would not go to waste.
The LSB has an infrastructure committee that considers proposals to improve each school.
Last Friday, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. donated buckets of paint, plywood, galvanized iron sheets, cement, electrical wires, and window blades to MASFMES.
Moises Menderico, Brigada Eskwela coordinator and the school’s disaster risk reduction and management coordinator, said that Pagcor pledged to shoulder some improvements in the school.
Help would help
So far, MASFMES has not received help from any non-government organization or sponsorship by a private corporation, unlike other schools that have had buildings donated to them.
On its walls is a mark. When the floodwater reaches that high, it’s the sign for school officials to suspend classes.
While waiting for infrastructure and other school improvements, the MASFMES administration has created a 15-member School Watching Action Team (Swat), composed of Grade 6 pupils, who help teachers and monitor the school conditions during heavy rains.
Andrino, who assumed as principal in 2015, said they purchased boots, raincoats and life vests for the Swat members.
“Imagina ang bata sa elementary, malumos baya kung baha kaayo (Every time a flood rises, our elementary pupils risk drowning),” she said.
Menderico planned to join one of the meetings of the Guizo barangay officials so he can suggest desilting the creek and ask village officers to advise some residents, whose houses were built along the creek, to clean their areas.
Raycee Camargo, a resident in Zone 3 in Barangay Mantuyong, said she always worries whenever it starts to rain while her son and two daughters are still in school.
Camargo said she cannot transfer her children to another school because MASFMES is the only one near their house.
“Unta matarong na gyud ba nga di mabahaan (I hope someone can help us protect the school against floods),” she added.