By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
Nearly a week after Taal volcano erupted, the Department of Education (DepEd) noted that the number of schools being used as evacuation centers has continued to increase, making the resumption of classes a more challenging task.
Based on the Education Cluster Report of DepEd dated January 18, the agency reported that there were 7,661,762 learners in 8,855 schools affected by the Taal’s volcanic eruption in 59 divisions under the National Capital Region (NCR), Region III, and Region IV-A and Region IV-B.
Classes remain suspended in 15 divisions under Region IV-A which affects 1,774,188 learners in 2, 035 schools.
DepEd data shows that there are 242 schools in 12 divisions under Region IV-A that are being used as evacuation centers. A total of 1,641 classrooms in these schools are housing 9,617 families or 43,468 individuals.
Of these numbers, there are 11,680 learners staying in evacuation centers in Antipolo City, Bacoor City, Batangas, Batangas City, Binan City, Cavite, General Trias, Laguna, Lipa City, Quezon, Rizal, and Tanauan City.
Spare the schools
Meanwhile, DepEd reiterated its earlier appeal to spare the schools during disasters by not using them as evacuation centers.
Education Secretary Leonor Briones has been advocating for the building of multi-purpose centers so that schools will no longer be used as evacuation centers each time natural disasters strike.
Briones, in an earlier interview, emphasized the need for separate facilities as evacuation centers aside from the public schools. She noted that even President Duterte supported her recommendation to “build more evacuation centers to spare schools from being used as temporary shelters of residents affected by calamities.”
Briones has long been proposing that more evacuation centers “be built across the country to ensure that education continues, no matter the circumstances, in an environment that does not expose learners and teachers to greater risks.” DepEd has been working with local government units (LGUs) to provide alternative evacuation centers for affected residents.
“We look forward to the time when LGUs will build permanent evacuation centers so schools need not be mobilized for this purpose and classes will not be disrupted,” Briones noted. Classes, she added, cannot resume when the evacuees are occupying the areas which are designated for learners’ studies.