By Mario Casayuran
Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go emphasized today the need for the education sector to prepare for the expected transfer of students from urban areas as more Filipinos express willingness to relocate to their home provinces after the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) health emergency.
“One of those (factors) that have to be considered is the readiness of schools and learning institutions for the student transferees,” Go said.
Go, chairman of the Senate health and demography committee, has urged concerned government agencies to plan long-term solutions to help the country recover more quickly from the COVID-19 crisis and help Filipinos adapt to the “new normal.”
He urged the education sector to prepare measures so that students can continue with their schooling without putting them at risk.
President Duterte and key Cabinet members have endorsed Go’s proposed ‘’Balik Probinsya’’ (Back to the Province) program in a bid to decongest densely-populated areas such as Metro Manila.
Senator Juan Edgardo M. Angara, chairman of the Senate finance committee, said that the Department of Education (DepEd) has a forecast on enrollees at DepEd schools, and state universities and colleges (SUCs).
‘’For DepEd, every increase of 400,000 enrollees should ideally birth 10,000 new classrooms. With that as basis, we can construct the anticipated needs. For once, let’s be ahead of the demand curve,” he said.
In budget deliberations last September 2019 for the DepEd’s 2020 budget, Angara said budget documents showed that the P20 billion recommended by Malacañang for the construction of new public classrooms next year is good for 8,000 rooms – way below DepEd’s request of P172.5 billion for 64,795 rooms.
The 2021 DepEd budget will be embedded in the proposed 2021 national budget to be submitted to Congress by President Duterte after his State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 27 when the Senate and House of Representatives formally hold a joint session at the Batasan Pambansa complex in Quezon city.
Angara’s committee will then go over the proposed DepEd budget after it has been scrutinized by the Lower House.
“Habang patuloy nating nilalabanan ang COVID-19, pinaghahandaan na rin natin ang ‘new normal’ kung saan kaya nating harapin ang epekto ng krisis na ito sa ekonomiya at sa pang-araw araw natin na buhay (While we continue to fight the COVID-19, we will also prepare for the “new normal” wherein we will face the effect of the crisis to the economy and to our daily lives),” Go said.
He said that the hardships experienced during the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) as well as the adverse socio-economic impact of the crisis on the livelihood of Filipinos would require the government to aid families to start a new life in their home provinces.
Aside from the physical facilities of schools, Go said that a thorough review of teaching strategy based on new technology and availability of the internet for E-learning must be considered.
Go further explained that one of the primary considerations of families when they choose a community to live in or relocate to is the availability of quality schools and learning institutions in the area for their children.
Go also explained that one reason why students and even whole families move from provinces to urban areas is because of the notion that schools in Metro Manila are better than those in the provinces.
The senator from Davao said he believes that the government should promote schools in regions that have developed students who have excelled in their respective fields.
Go added that although the initiative might entail massive infrastructure projects for education, the move might also ease the burden of overcapacity of classrooms as population in urban areas will be decongested.
Beyond this, Go suggests that the education sector must also provide more government-funded scholarships and subsidy plans for poor but deserving students.