Briones, other DepEd officials visit Camarines Sur to assess situation

Published January 5, 2019, 5:51 PM

by Francine Ciasico

By Merlina Hernando-Malipot

To assess the situation of schools, personnel, and learners affected by Typhoon “Usman,” Education Secretary Leonor Briones and other officials of the Department of Education (DepEd) visited typhoon-hit Camarines Sur.


Briones joined President Rodrigo Duterte and other Cabinet officials in the inspection and damage assessment of the province on Friday, which was followed by a situation briefing on the extent of damage brought by the typhoon.

“The cost of damage for facilities in Region 5 is estimated at P237 million, excluding the damages from computers, textbooks and other school supplies,” said Briones during the Task Force Usman incident command meeting and situation briefing on the effects of TD Usman and tail end of cold front.

Briones added that “damages due to floods and landslides are greater in magnitude than strong winds and typhoons” thus, “we have to consider other disaster responses such as building reinforcement, slope protection and transfer of school sites, which require huge monetary outlays.”

“Our immediate response is to mobilize the entire country, especially the public sector in an organized matter to mitigate the effects of disasters,” Briones explained.

Aside from Briones, DepEd Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Service (DRRMS) director Ronilda Co, DepEd Region 5 director Gilbert Sadsad, and Camarines Sur schools division superintendent Cecille Rivera also led the monitoring and disaster response efforts in the typhoon-affected schools. DepEd teachers and personnel have been working together to repack relief goods for the victims of Typhoon “Usman.”

‘Brigada Eskwela’ in Bicol

Briones noted that the Quick Response Fund worth P2 billion is “now nearly exhausted due to the typhoons” including “Usman.”

To help ensure that affected schools get the help and assistance that they need, Briones said the DepEd – in coordination with Department of Social and Welfare and Development (DSWD) will launch a special “Brigada Eskwela” in Region 5 just like what it did in Marawi after the months-long siege.

In December 2017, DepEd organized the special “Brigada Eskwela sa Marawi” which used a “Pairing and Twinning System” in implementing aid where each sector of several school in the affected area is paired with a regional office that is then twinned with a regional and division office from other islands. The said system “helps ensure that every school is given the dedicated manpower and appropriate resources it needs to rebuild and repair itself.”

Also in December 2017, DepEd also organized “Brigada Eskwela sa Biliran” after then Tropical Storm “Urduja” hit Eastern Visayas. In January 2018, DepEd also led the “Brigada Eskwela in Lanao del Norte” after Briones visited and inspected the schools which were ravaged by Typhoon “Vinta” in Lanao del Norte.

The “Brigada Eskwela” has been an annual exercise for DepEd and its stakeholders with every school and the community coming together and preparing schools for the start of classes. Traditionally, the “Brigada” is only done once a year but Briones emphasized that the concept of “bayanihan” in rebuilding and rehabilitating schools has become national and year-round in scope.

“Once a year lang ang Brigada Eskwela, but now that we have seen all these disasters, and all this need for help and cooperation, we’re making it national,” she said in an earlier statement. She also relayed how the twinning and pairing system, which has been implemented in Marawi, works “when it comes to responding to disasters.”

‘Education must continue’

Despite disasters, emergencies, and adversities, Briones has always been consistent in her rallying cry that “education must continue.”

For Briones, the “best way” to be able to bring the children back to a sense of normalcy after a disaster or a conflict “is to see to it that their education continues.” Whether there is armed conflict, flood, or earthquake, she noted in her earlier interviews that “education must continue no matter what happens.” Adults, she said, “should always guarantee that whatever happens, whether we have a natural disaster, or whatever disaster, that education will always continue [and] we have to assure the children that they can look forward to a normal life.”

Briones has always emphasized the importance of “teaching children not only to memorize facts and formulas, but to accept, live with, and be responsive to change.” She reminded that at the end of the day, “preparedness is most important.”

Emphasizing on preserving the environment, Briones also pointed out that the schoolchildren must be taught of having a sense of awareness and appreciation of what climate change is all about. “It’s really preparedness so we have to prepare our children for climate change, to know that it is here, that it will come at any time,” she added.

Based on the data from DepEd dated January 4, 2019, over nine-million learners (9,610,071) have been “exposed” due to “Usman” in seven regions (Regions 4-A, 4-B, 5, 6, 7, 8 and Caraga).

Likewise, 23,507 schools and 101 DepEd divisions have been “exposed” or were affected by the weather disturbance. Currently, only one region and one division (Albay) with two schools (Buga Elementary School and Naga High School) are used as evacuation centers by 10 families (52 individuals).

Like in other typhoon or disaster-hit areas, DepEd assured that it will continue to deploy response interventions to schools and learners affected such as provision of temporary learning spaces and kits for both teachers and students as well as cleanup drive and other related activities.