The inadequate number of classrooms in the Philippines was further reduced due to the Department of Education’s (DepEd) failure to reconstruct and repair typhoon-damaged schools, said Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) on Tuesday, Aug. 16.
The teachers’ group said that several classrooms in Central Visayas were left “unrehabilitated” since it was ravaged by typhoon Odette in December 2021. These schools, according to the group, include the following: Mabolo National High School, Labangon Elementary School, Camp Lapu-Lapu Elementary School, Zapatera Elementary School, Zapatera High School, and Abellana National Highschool.
“The situation of our schools now is really wretched. State neglect, especially in the past two years under the pandemic, is very palpable. Up to this date, many schools cannot finalize their class plans mainly due to classroom shortage – how many of the enrolled students can be accommodated in face-to-face classes or how many days will classes meet face-to-face,” said ACT Chairperson Vladimer Quetua in a press statement.
Meanwhile, the country’s classroom shortage dilemma was exacerbated by the July 27 magnitude 7.0 northwestern Luzon quake. Data as of Aug. 5 revealed that 674 schools have been affected by the destructive earthquake. Of this number, 456 schools have been damaged with 624 totally damaged and 1,476 partially damaged classrooms.
In order to repair these classrooms alone, DepEd needs P2.298 billion.
ACT then reiterated its demand for the national government to “act swiftly” and “lay a long-term plan” to resolve this problem. DepEd Spokesperson Michael Poa, in a “Laging Handa” briefing on the other hand, admitted that there is a classroom shortage in the country, but he also underscored that this has been a problem in the Philippines even before the pandemic.
“Alam naman po natin na ‘yung classroom shortage na ‘yan, pre-pandemic pa lang ay meron na ‘yan. Noong previous administration ay nakapag tayo naman ng classrooms bagamat hindi as many as expected dahil nga marami tayong lockdowns. This administration, we will also try to address that. In the long term, syempre po ay magtatayo tayo ng paaralan, mga classrooms na dagdag. Pero in the short term, meron po tayong shifting schedules katulad ng ipinapatupad noon. Hopefully we can limit that to just two shifts (We know that classroom shortage already existed pre-pandemic. During the previous administration, we were able to build classrooms, although not as many as expected because we had many lockdowns. This administration, we will also try to address that. In the long term, of course, we will build schools and additional classrooms. But in the short term, we will have shifting schedules similar to what was implemented before. Hopefully we can limit that to just two shifts),” said Poa.
This strategy, however, was slammed by the teachers’ group, saying that “band-aid solutions” like shifting of classes and temporary learning spaces will not resolve the country’s problems.
Despite these challenges, DepEd stood their ground and reiterated that classes will push through on Monday, Aug. 22. While public and private schools were encouraged to implement in-person learning, they were also given the time to transition from blended learning to full five-day face-to-face classes beginning Nov. 2.