By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
While it strongly enjoins the cooperation of the learners and parents in the annual “Brigada Eskwela,” the Department of Education (DepEd) on Thursday clarified that participation in the back-to-school clean-up activity remains voluntary.
In a press conference, DepEd Undersecretary for Legislative Affairs, External Partnerships, and Project Management Service Tonisito Umali, Esq. clarified that participation in the activity – especially for learners and parents – was voluntary.
Umali issued this clarification following inquiries that there were some public schools that allegedly “required” learners to bring rags, brooms, paints and other cleaning materials upon enrolment or confirmation to the next grade level.
“Bawal po ito,” Umali said – explaining that participation in the activity should be voluntary and should not be used as a requirement for enrolment. He noted that these schools should be reported to DepEd.
DepEd also reminded its existing “no collection” policy – thus, public schools should not collect or require any contribution from the learners unless given voluntarily.
To prepare for the opening of classes in public schools on June 3, the DepEd officially announced that it will lead the annual “Brigada Eskwela” before the end of this month.
Now on its 16th year, DepEd – through its External Partnerships Service (EPS) – is set to implement this year’s Brigada Eskwela from May 20 to 25. With the theme, “Matatag na Bayan para sa Maunlad na Paaralan,” DepEd said that the activity aims to reflect how DepEd recognizes the “importance of the community in making schools the best place for learners to acquire the values and competencies they need to contribute to nation-building.”
The Brigada Eskwela – also known as the National Schools Maintenance Week – is “escalating its implementation to maintain its success and go beyond the expected outcomes with the help of its partners” according to Education Secretary Leonor Briones.
“It is more than just about painting or cleaning schools in preparation for the return of the children,” Briones said. “It’s also a matter of seeing to it that we provide them the requisites of learners and the requisites of a good learning environment namely, safe schools, supplies, furniture, equipment, and good teachers,” she added.
The national kickoff program and caravan of the Brigada 2019 is slated on May 16 at Alfonso Central Elementary School in Cavite.
Gathering stakeholders as volunteers
Meanwhile, DepEd shared that since the Brigada was conceptualized in 2013, it continued to flourish through the years. In 2018 alone, DepEd noted that a total of “P4.66 billion worth of resources was generated” and the number of nationwide volunteers “doubled from 11 million in 2017 to 22 million” in the same year.
Umali said that the “bayanihan” spirit of the Filipinos contributed to the success of the program. “Patunay lamang po ito na patuloy pang lumawig ang kaalaman ng ating mamamayan upang dumami ang nakikipagkaisa at lalong mapaunlad ang ating bayan, mapatatag ang ating mga paaralan, at lubusang mapakinabangan ng ating mga mag-aaral,” he explained.
While it was first established as a voluntary effort in 2003, DepEd said the Brigada Eskwela has become one of its most “important programs” which aims to address resource gaps faced by the Department through strengthening partnerships with the local communities.
DepEd said that during the first year of Brigada’s its implementation, only 4,000 schools were expected to participate but a total of 12,533 schools accepted the challenge. “The tremendous efforts of various stakeholders have brought about innovations and creative ways to improve the schools’ facilities in preparation for the opening of classes and towards a better learning environment,” DepEd added.
Umali noted that the Brigada Eskwela has becomes the “epitome” of what education partnerships truly are. “One week of partnering with our community, parents, and all of our stakeholders to ensure quality basic education for all learners is not enough,” he said. “Ito po ay dapat na ipagpatuloy, palaguin, palakasin, at paigtingin sa buong taon,” he added.
The Brigada Eskwela has become a permanent part of the school calendar in 2008. Since then, all public schools nationwide are now mandated to implement the program every second week of May.