Over the years, the Brigada Eskwela is a tradition that kicks off a new academic year, highlighted by “bayanihan” where community members help in cleaning up classrooms and school premises to make them ready for the students. Sometimes, there are minor to medium repairs and maintenance work done, or sprucing up which involves putting a new coat of paint on the walls or sprucing up the gardens, playground, or the gym.
This year’s Brigada Eskwela is different from past years as the Department of Education (DepEd) prepares for in-person classes starting Aug. 22, 2022 after a two-year hiatus due to the global health pandemic. It is doubly challenging as the world is still officially in a pandemic and there are various concerns (such as the risk of monkeypox or the effects of inflation) which have caused parents to worry.
In a Brigada Eskwela national kick-off event at the Imus Pilot Elementary School in Cavite last Monday, Aug. 1, Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Z. Duterte admitted that there are challenges, which she aptly described as akin to being in a “quicksand” — “We continue to face the threats of the Covid-19 pandemic, along with other unexpected challenges that hamper our daily progress for our learners (such as) monkeypox, flooding, typhoon, earthquake…” But she didn’t just harp on these roadblocks; instead, she rallied on education stakeholders, especially the teachers, to continue to overcome these challenges.
“What is important is that we have the determination to succeed in our mission,” she said. “I am confident and optimistic that the DepEd will overcome… with the support of our national government and the administration of President Marcos.”
The spirit behind Brigada Eskwela, formally known as the National Schools Maintenance Week, is cooperation. This is a nationwide program that engages all education stakeholders to contribute time, effort, and resources in ensuring that public schools are all set in time for class opening. Members of the local community, parents, alumni, civic groups, local businesses, NGOs, private individuals, etc. are all encouraged to participate.
“Brigada Eskwela activities all over the country always highlight the communal efforts of all education stakeholders to prepare our school for our learners,” Duterte said. “We would see parents who are excited, willing and happy to extend any help they could to ensure that our schools are ready to receive our learners from day one of the opening of classes and onwards to the school year.”
It is in this spirit of cooperation that Duterte stressed the importance of collaboration among parents, teachers, the LGU, and the entire community, considering the requirement for a “new normal” school — one that adheres and will strictly implement the minimum health and safety protocols. There should also be cooperation with regards to vaccination as there are reports of some unvaccinated school personnel, who may be ordered to work from home instead.
Moving forward until the day the gates of schools open for the 11.7 million students who are currently enrolled for School Year 2022-2023, there should be no room for errors. By now, DepEd should have already learned from past lessons and should have incorporated in its plans the best practices of school openings abroad. Time is of the essence as students must make up for lost learning opportunities so that this education crisis doesn’t turn into an irreversible catastrophe.