Thursday, December 02, 2021

Making schools safer ‘takes time’

CLASSROOM WITHOUT WALLS. Without waiting for help, parents and teachers of this public school in Cagawasan, Inabanga, Bohol put up temporary classrooms. The school, which nearly 400 pupils attend, also lost its toilets in the quake. (SUN.STAR PHOTO/ALLAN CUIZON)

BOHOL - Pupils of schools in Bohol that were destroyed or damaged by the earthquake still confront every day the effects of that calamity one year ago.

Many classes in northern Bohol are still held inside makeshift tents and classrooms made of bamboo and nipa. These temporary classrooms were built with the help of Parents and Teachers’ Associations (PTAs).

Dr. Victor Yntig of the Department of Education (DepEd) Central Visayas said last October 9 that only 270 classrooms have been built as of September this year to replace the 1,260 classrooms the earthquake destroyed.

Out of the 1,145 classrooms damaged by the earthquake, 440 have been repaired as of last September.

Dr. Yntig said the construction and repair of classrooms are moving at “a moderate pace” because school sites have to be assessed and declared safe by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) Central Visayas before work can start.

Special funds

Apart from that, he said, the government procurement process also involves many levels.

Yntig said that some local government units also used their Special Education Funds to repair classrooms. He did not say, though, how many classrooms were repaired by local government units.

Education Secretary Armin Luistro, in an interview, said P542 million has been set aside this year for 536 classrooms in Bohol. Luistro said the new classrooms are designed to withstand strong typhoons and earthquakes.

The new designs of the DPWH meant that a one-storey, single classroom building now cost around P1.1 million; a building with two classrooms, P1.8 million; P2.7 million for three classrooms; P3.5 million for four classrooms; and P4.3 million for five classrooms.

Yntig said 731 classrooms are being built and 259 other classrooms are set to be constructed next year.

Who pays?

Funds used for the construction and repair of classrooms include the DepEd’s Quick Response Fund and the Basic Education Facilities Fund of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp., Yntig added, has committed P86.5 million for 91 classrooms that will be constructed next year.

Private groups and individuals, and public-private sector partnerships also shouldered the construction and repair of 307 classrooms.

According to the Bohol Rehabilitation Plan, the earthquake destroyed 1,234 classrooms and damaged 1,139 others.

Yntig pointed out, though, that DepEd sent engineers to verify the figures stated in the plan and came up with a smaller figure.

In Cebu City, DepEd allotted about P4.5 million from its Quick Response Fund to repair 161 classrooms in eight public schools.

Engineer Emmanuel Pepito, DepEd Cebu City physical facilities officer-in-charge, said the funds were released only recently, and that the delay was understandable because Bohol is considered a priority due to the extent of damage the province suffered as a result of the quake.

More exits

In Cebu City, the quake damaged these schools: Camp Lapu-lapu National High School in Barangay Apas, Mabolo National High School, Banilad Elementary School, Barrio Luz Elementary School, Cantipla Integrated School, Sinsin Elementary School, Labangon Elementary School and San Nicolas Elementary School.

Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella ordered the Local School Board to use its funds to construct emergency exits in multi-level school buildings.

“Some of the buildings only have one staircase. If another earthquake happens, they will only have one exit,” he said.

While waiting for the construction and repair of their classrooms, many schools in Bohol make do with their limited resources.

In Cagawasan, Inabanga, the PTA helped the school put up temporary classrooms. Because of limited funds, the school tried to fit more than 30 students in a classroom that is three meters wide and about five meters long.

The school’s Grade 1 class continues to use a damaged classroom, defying the advice of engineers, said teacher Metodio dela Torre.

The school, with a student population of almost 400, lost its toilets in the quake.


The Lourdes Elementary School in Cortes town received donated tents from Taiwan, but some children got sick during the dry months because it was too warm inside them. When it rains, it leaks.

Celsa Albuladora, a Grade 3 teacher in the Lourdes Elementary School, said teachers brought electric fans to provide ventilation inside the classroom tents. But when it rains, her class is forced to seek shelter at the main school building.

In order to keep pupils and teachers safe, Dr. Yntig said, another layer has been added to the process involved in the reconstruction and repair of classrooms.

DepEd now needs to secure a geohazard assessment report (GAR) and clearance from the MGB before starting construction of any classroom.

Although this further lengthens the process, Yntig said, it is necessary to ensure the safety of everyone in the school.

MGB Central Visayas senior geologist Josephine Aleta said that as much as they want to fast-track the geohazard surveys of affected schools in Bohol, the bureau does not have enough geologists to do the job. She said aside from schools, MGB also has to assess government buildings, public infrastructure and human settlement areas.

Survey ‘a must’

The geohazard survey is meant to determine if schools are not in flood- and landslide-prone areas, and check for nearby sinkholes.

Sinkholes, normal features of a limestone rock, appeared in several areas in Bohol after the earthquake.

The MGB can recommend if a school needs to be relocated.

According to a report provided by the DepEd Bohol Division, MGB 7 recommended the relocation of 14 schools due to the presence of sinkholes.

These schools are the Canlaas High School, Ubujan-Tagubaas Elementary School and Tupaz Elementary School in Antequera; Bagtic Elementary School and Catigbian National High School in Catigbian; Pangangan High School and Elementary School, and Sohoton Primary School in Calape; Napo Elementary School and Lawis Elementary School in Loon; Boyog Elementary School in Balilihan; Sta. Cruz Elementary School in Maribojoc; Tontonan Elementary School in Clarin;and Magtangtang Elementary School in Danao.

Of the 14 schools, only six have relocated to safer ground.

The DepEd said relocation cannot be implemented immediately because it would have to find appropriate alternative sites. (Sun.Star Cebu)
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