Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Monday said the Department of Education (DepEd) should lose no time in putting up the much needed infrastructure for the safe reopening of schools even though the pilot tests of localized and limited face-to-face classes have yet to start.
Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate basic education committee, said adequate water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) facilities should be ensured especially in schools where they are not available. According to DepEd, 3,861 public schools have no access to potable water, while 7,704 group hand washing facilities need to be constructed.
Under the 2021 national budget, P11,146,531,000 is allotted for Basic Education Facilities, P2,920,325,000 of which is for the construction, replacement, and completion of kindergarten, elementary, and secondary school buildings, and technical vocational laboratories.
The P2.9-billion allocation also covers the construction of water and sanitation facilities as well as the installation or replacement of access facilities for persons with disabilities such as ramps, handrails, and tactile paving. Another P4,706,100,000 is allotted under Basic Education Facilities for the rehabilitation, renovation, repair, and improvement of these same buildings and facilities.
Though he proposes the establishment of an evacuation center in every city and municipality in the country in Senate Bill No. 747 or the Evacuation Center Act, Gatchalian acknowledges that some local government units (LGUs) rely on school facilities during calamities in the absence of available sites for evacuation centers.
In areas where there are no available sites for construction, Gatchalian seeks improvements in school facilities and structures being used as evacuation centers, which should be able to withstand wind speeds of 320 kilometers per hour (kph) or 200 miles per hour (mph) and moderate seismic activity of at least 7.2 magnitude.
“Matapos ang mahabang panahon na wala ang ating mga kabataan sa paaralan, dapat lang na tiyakin nating ligtas ang babalikan nilang mga gusali at silid-aralan (It is right that our learners should go back to school buildings and classrooms that are safe after a long period that our learners have not gone to their schools),” he added.