SENATORS on Wednesday, September 16, 2020, urged the Department of Education (DepEd) to look into the 30 percent decline in the number of enrollees in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Barmm) for school year 2020-2021.

The Bangsamoro region posted the biggest decline in enrollment among the regions.

It was followed by the Zamboanga Peninsula (Region 9), where enrollment declined by 16 percent, as well as Metro Manila and Calabarzon, which both posted a 12 percent decline in enrollment.

During the hearing of the Senate committee on basic education, arts, and culture, panel chairperson Senator Sherwin Gatchalian said the enrollment decline in Barmm is a “serious” problem.

“The Barmm is having a serious problem on enrollment, in fact, it is double the mount of the next region which is Region 9. I would like to flag the attention of DepEd. We all know that the Barmm is the poorest region in the country,” Gatchalian said.

“It also has the highest poverty incidence as well as hunger incidence and a decrease of 30 percent in the number of enrollees will create intergenerational problems or poverty,” he continued.

DepEd data also showed that other regions posted a decline in enrollment as well: Central Luzon by 11 percent, Cordillera Administrative Region by 10 percent, Caraga Administrative Region (CAR) by nine percent, Davao Region by eight percent, Bicol and Eastern Visayas by seven percent each, Central Visayas and Western Visayas by six percent each, Mimaropa and Ilocos by five percent each, Soccsksargen by three percent, and Cagayan Valley by two percent.

As of September 14, total enrollment for school year 2020-2021 reached 24.3 million, or 87.6 percent of the previous school year’s total enrollment.

Of this number, 22.24 million have signed up in public schools while 2.08 million are in private schools.

Gatchalian noted that there are over 2.3 million dropouts for the incoming school year.

“We consider this 2.3 million as dropouts. What we do not want to happen is to have permanent dislocation of children. Instead of studying, they would just permanently go to work,” he said.

“My point of the matter there Undersecretary Nepo(muceno Malaluan) is we have to address that 2.3 million missing students,” he added.

Senator Nancy Binay echoed Gatchalian’s concern, saying that the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic is unlikely the reason for the increasing number of dropouts since the Bangsamoro has a low number of infections. (SunStar Philippines)