Senator urges DepEd to fast-track installation of hygiene facilities in all public schools

Published June 20, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Mario Casayuran

Senator Sherwin “Win’’ Gatchalian today (June 20) urged the Department of Education (DepEd) to fast-track the installation of water, sanitation, and hygiene facilities (WASH) in public elementary and secondary schools where they are not yet available.

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian (Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)
Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian
(Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture, said adequate WASH facilities are long-term investments that would help schools observe proper hygiene and sanitation.

Even if COVID-19 is contained and physical classes resume, these facilities are important to keep learners, teachers, and school personnel safe from the threat of other preventable diseases, he explained.

Gatchalian stressed that soap, sanitizers, and alcohol should always be available in schools when physical classes resume.

Last year, DepEd reported that only half of 35,005 schools that participated in its ‘WASH in Schools’ (WinS) program have access to group hand washing facilities with soap and water available.

DepEd also revealed that 37.4 percent of schools practice daily supervised hand washing.

The WinS program aims to provide a comprehensive and sustainable school-based water, hygiene, sanitation, health education and deworming program to achieve learning and health outcomes.

In 2016, DepEd reported that 3,628 public schools had no regular source of safe and clean water.

“Hindi na kailangan ng pandemya para ipaalala sa mga eskwelahan ang importanteng mga bagay na ito. Pero dahil sa krisis na dulot ng COVID-19, kailangang magdobleng ingat tayo at laging maging handa para mapanatili ang kaligtasan at kalusugan ng mga mag-aaral, guro at kawani ng paaralan,” (The pandemic is not needed to remind schools of the importance of these facilities. But the existence of the pandemic should force us to redouble our efforts in maintaining cleanliness and the health of students, teachers and school personnel),” he said.

In Senate Bill 1565, or the Education in the New Normal Act, Gatchalian also proposed that local school boards be allowed to utilize the “Special Education Fund” of local government units (LGUs) for the provision of hand washing facilities, soap, alcohol, sanitizers and other public health supplies such as thermometers, face masks, and face shields.

The Education in the New Normal Act calls for the development of a Safe Schools Reopening Plan.

The bill seeks to mandate the implementation of information campaigns in schools to highlight the importance of regular handwashing and sanitizing, as well as other protocols on disease prevention and control.