LACK of classrooms and armchairs in some public elementary and secondary schools in Central Visayas hounded the opening of the school year on Monday.
In Cebu City, personnel of the City’s Department of Engineering and Public Works (DEPW) were still repairing some classrooms at the Zapatera Elementary School, which were used as temporary shelter of fire victims from the neighboring barangay of Lorega.
In Basak Pardo and at the Pardo Elementary School, two students and a mother were injured.
In Basak Pardo, a public utility vehicle sideswept a student who was on his way to the Don Vicente Rama Memorial High School. Meanwhile, a mother and her seven-year-old son fell into a septic tank inside the Pardo Elementary School campus.
At Caningag Elementary School, a newly-opened school in Barangay Duangan in Balamban town, not a single teacher reported for work, prompting Balamban Mayor Ace Binghay to call Cebu Provincial Schools Superintendent Arden Monisit. Monisit said he sent district head Jane Gurrea to check on the shortage of teachers in Balamban and send teachers there.
Apart from some hitches, Department of Education (DepEd) 7 Director Carmelita Dulangon described the opening of the school year as “generally peaceful and orderly.”
Cebu Provincial Police Office (CPPO) Director Noel Gillamac said the opening of classes was orderly.
The CCPO deployed about 300 policemen to maintain peace and order and oversee traffic in 50 towns and cities in Cebu Province. As of Monday, there were no reported incidents related to the school opening.
Aside from the lack of facilities, some students had problems locating their classrooms. Teachers also reported having to deal with transferees who did not have complete documents and students who enrolled late.
DepEd Cebu City Schools Superintendent Rhea Mar Angtud said the problems reported by the schools were manageable.
Acting Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella said the teachers and other school officials were prepared for event.
Dulangon noted several transferees from private schools. She said the Lapu-Lapu City Schools Division reported 40 transferees to public schools.
In Cebu City, Angtud said transferees who have yet to comply with all requirements were given until end of July.
In northern Cebu, many schools have still not been rebuilt after these were destroyed during super typhoon Yolanda.
Dulangon said many students are holding classes in makeshift classrooms. She urged teachers to find suitable places to hold classes in while classrooms have yet to be repaired.
She said school officials concerned can ask the local governments’ permission to use the barangay halls and sports complexes as temporary classrooms.
In Talisay City, the shortage of classrooms is a recurring problem.
Talisay City Schools Division Superintendent Woodrow Denuyo said they have to resort to holding classes in shifts. He said he hopes the problem will be addressed soon as the National Government is planning to build more classrooms in Talisay City.
The DepEd 7 official, however, said she was surprised that some schools reported a shortage of armchairs. She said she earlier ordered school divisions to report schools that needed more chairs so DepEd can deliver some.
The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) used the opening of classes as an occasion to hold protests in some public schools in Cebu City. ACT members wore black arm bands and called on government to increase the wages of teachers, said Antonia Lim, ACT Central Visayas Union president.
Lim said ACT also calls on government to speed up the rehabilitation of classrooms destroyed by Yolanda.
Cebu City Councilor Dave Tumulak, along with the City's Local Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council, visited schools to check if the opening of classes went smoothly.
Police personnel in Cebu City also visited campuses to distribute leaflets informing students and parents about safety precautions.
Some members of the San Nicolas Police Station converted their uniforms into costumes and danced to convey the message to schoolchildren that policemen are their friends.
“We want to show the students that policemen should not be feared and we are here to protect them,” Senior Inspector Chuck Barandog, chief of the San Nicolas Police Station, said during a visit at the Don Vicente Rama High School in Basak Pardo.
After inspecting the Abellana National High School and the City Central School, Cebu City Police Office (CCPO) Director Noli Romana recommended more fire exits.
Romana said raising awareness is a vital component of crime prevention. He urged parents to fetch their children from school or use the school bus service.
Students are also reminded not to talk with strangers and to be careful in walking along the streets.
Earlier, Gillamac directed all town and city police chiefs to coordinate with the principal or parent-teacher association of schools in their respective areas.
Gillamac said traffic congestion near schools was expected.
He said CCPO is planning to conduct seminars to teach students about crime prevention.
Some parents, especially those with young children, brought their kids to school and waited until classes were over.
Arlyn Eral, accompanied her son, Mark Kleen, a grade 2 student. “Ubanan gyod nako kay maowaw paman siya. Gi-secure lang pud nako iyang safety kay daghan ra ba sakyanan nga maghatod pud sa ilang studyante (I had to accompany him because he’s shy. I also want to make sure he’s safe because there are many vehicles at the school),” Eral told Sun.Star Cebu. (JKV/RVC/OCP/DSM/JTR)