By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
In line with its efforts to ensure the smooth opening of classes for School Year (SY) 2019-2020, the Department of Education (DepEd) announced the conduct of this year’s “Brigada Eskwela” and the launching of the national Oplan Balik Eskwela (OBE).
For this year, DepEd said the “Brigada Eskwela” or the annual school maintenance activity is scheduled from May 20 to 25. With theme, “Matatag na Bayan para sa Maunlad na Paaralan,” this year’s “Brigada Eskwela” aims to “bring together all education stakeholders to participate and contribute their time, effort, and resources to prepare public schools for the opening of classes.”
Meanwhile, Education Secretary Leonor Briones in DepEd Memorandum No. 029 series of 2019, announced that the national OBE will run from May 27 to June 7. The OBE is an annual initiative to “engage agencies, organizations, and all other stakeholders in preparation for the opening of the school year.”
The DepEd, through its External Partnerships Service (EPS), recently led a convergence meeting with national government agencies (NGAs) and government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs) to strengthen partnerships for “Brigada Eskwela.”
Based on the data from EPS, the “Brigada Eskwela” in 2018 generated a grand total of P6,447,685,413.61 worth of resources and volunteer man hours, and mobilized a total 22,647,754 volunteers.
DepEd Undersecretary for Legislative Affairs, External Partnerships, and Project Management Service Tonisito M.C. Umali, Esq. explained that the department would like to “change” the mindset of its local officials about the program. “We’re now trying to equip all of our school officials from the various local levels of governance—from the school, district, schools division, region, and up to the central office—about partnership,” he said, as he further emphasized “everyone’s role in the provision of quality education for all.”
Given this, DepEd called on volunteer entities to donate in kind such as emergency kits for schools, teachers, and first aid, as well as health and hygiene kits and bags for learners.
Also known as the National Schools Maintenance Week, the “Brigada Eskwela” enjoins the agency’s partners to help prepare public schools for the opening of classes. Aside from usual clean-up and maintenance activities, DepEd’s partners are also urged to conduct learning sessions on public safety and fire or earthquake drill, sanitation and proper hygiene, health and wellness, food storage and handling, parenting, bullying awareness and prevention, anti-illegal drug campaign, financial literacy and personal financial management, and reading and writing sessions during the “Brigada” week.
DepEd’s partners are also encouraged to support its programs on medical and dental check-up, good grooming and haircut, “Gulayan sa Paaralan,” livelihood opportunities for learners and parents-teachers association (PTA), and provision of school supplies and uniforms, and learning and teaching materials – among others.
Smooth school opening
Aside from the “Brigada,” DepEd is also preparing for the launch of this year’s OBE. “The OBE is part of the Department’s efforts to ensure that learners are already properly enrolled and able to attend school by the first day of classes,” Briones said in the memo dated March 13, 2019. The OBE also aims to “address the problems, queries and other concerns commonly encountered by the public at the start of the school year.”
This year’s OBE will focus on four components including “Convergence,” “Command Conference,” “Communication” and “Client Assistance.” For OBE’s “Convergence” component, Briones said that DepEd shall coordinate with other government agencies involved in school opening matters to assemble the annual year’s OBE Inter-Agency Task Force (OBE-IATF). The meeting for the OBE-IATF shall be on May 8, 2019.
Meanwhile, a “Command Conference” is also scheduled on May 27, 2019 among DepEd officials, partner agencies from the public and private sector, media and other stakeholders.
Briones added that an OBE Public Assistance Command Center (PACC) shall also be set up at the DepEd Central, Regional, and Schools Division Offices. It will “serve as the information and complaints processing and routing mechanism.” The OBE-PACC shall be set up on May 25, 2019 at Bulwagan ng Karunungan at DepEd Central Office in Pasig City. To help ensure the success of this project, Briones directed all involved DepEd offices/units “to actively participate and assign representative/s to the OBE-PACC.”
This year’s national OBE shall be under the general supervision of DepEd Undersecretary for Planning and Field Operations Jesus L. R. Mateo and Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs and Alternative Learning System, Program and Task Force G.H. Ambat as co-chairs.