Sec. Briones: Avoid Using Schools as Evacuation Centers

Education Secretary Leonor Briones on Friday called on local governments to spare schools from being used as evacuation centers during calamities.

Panahon pa ng Mayon, sinasabi na namin na sana iwasan na ang paggamit ng school buildings as evacuation centers para hindi ma-interrupt ang classes. Kailangan makapaghanap sila ng lugar kung saan makapagpatayo ng temporary learning shelters gaya ng sa Marawi (Even during the Mayon eruption, we said the use of school buildings as evacuation centers must be avoided so that classes won’t be interrupted. They must find a place where temporary learning shelters can be put up, just like in Marawi),” Briones told reporters on the sidelines of the launch of the “Duterte Legacy” campaign in Pasay City.

Since last weekend’s eruption of the Taal Volcano, classes have remained suspended in the provinces of Cavite and Batangas, and some parts of Laguna.

Meanwhile, Metro Manila and some local government units in Central Luzon suspended classes on Monday and Tuesday as ashfall from the volcano reached these areas.

Wala silang pasok ngayon, may gap (The learners don’t have classes, there is a gap). This is why we’re trying to solve the problem of the learners whose classes have been suspended by negotiating with the local governments. Batangas alone has more than 120 schools, 168 schools for the entire region, including six private schools,” Briones said.

According to the Department of Education’s latest report, about 7,895 schools in 58 divisions with 7,228,468 learners have been affected by the Taal Volcano eruption.

To complete the school calendar days, learners affected by natural disasters usually attend extended class hours, have classes during holidays and weekends, and adapt to alternative ways of learning.

“Sabi ng regional director namin puwede sa umaga klase, tapos sa gabi evacuation centers. Pero mahirap yan (Our regional director suggested that schools can be used for classes in the morning and as evacuation centers in the evening but that’s difficult). So if you’re a policymaker, you have to make a choice. There were local governments that were responsive and built multi-purpose halls, especially those along the coastlines but not every local government did that,” Briones said.

Citing that it is best for evacuee learners to continue studying at the nearest schools in the places where they transferred, Briones said she signed on Wednesday “a memorandum ordering all public schools to accommodate all young evacuees with or without recommendation and have their school requirements to follow.”

She added that public school teachers affected by the Taal Volcano eruption have the choice not to work or teach in the meantime.

“They can refuse or they also cannot refuse. But in our experience, they don’t refuse. By the way, walang interruption sa sweldo (there’s no salary interruption),” she said.