Brigada Eskwela pushes for better disaster preparedness in schools

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Brigada Eskwela pushes for better disaster preparedness in schools
To strengthen this initiative, the education department wraps up its Brigada Eskwela program with a series of seminars on disaster risk reduction management, and fire and earthquake drills

MANILA, Philippines – Beyond preparing classrooms for the opening of the school year, Brigada Eskwela is also focused on ensuring that schools can prepare for emergencies and disasters.

From May 15 to 20, students, parents, and volunteers from all over the country trooped to the nearest public schools in their community for the annual showcase of bayanihan through Brigada Eskwela.

“Ang Brigada Eskwela ay nagpapakita na ang edukasyon ay hindi lamang obligasyon ng gobyerno, ito ay responsibilidad din ng lahat ng mga tao,” DepEd Undersecretary Annalyn Sevilla said during the Brigada Eskwela held in Navotas. 

(The Brigada Eskwela shows that education is not only the obligation of the government. It is also the responsibility of all stakeholders) 

Launched in 2003, Brigada Eskwela is an annual community-based program that aims to promote “bayanihan” spirit among education stakeholders to prepare public school facilities for the upcoming school year.

The drive has generated increased support from education stakeholders throughout the years: from P1.5 billion in 2012, generated resources and support has increased to P7.3 billion or 21%, according to the DepEd.

Disaster preparedness

There were at least 3 tasks for Brigada Eskwela volunteers across the country: paint, clean, and repair. All of these tasks were geared towards the common goal of preparing the schools for the opening of classes and for strengthening disaster preparedness in schools.

“Ang una at lagi naming tinitingnan ay ‘yung pagiging ligtas ng ating eskwelahan. Sinisigurado natin ang kahandaang pisikal ng ating mga paaralan para sa mga sakuna tulad ng lindol, baha, at iba pa,” Sevilla said.

Sevilla added that it is important to keep schools safe and ready to withstand strong winds and major earthquakes because the community often seeks refuge in schools in times of disasters.

“Lahat ng eskwelahan ay meron ng disaster risk reduction coordinators. Maski ‘yung ating mga guro, tinuturuan na natin kung paano ang pagtugon sa lindol, bagyo, baha, at iba pang kalamidad. Dapat handa ang ating mga paaralan sa ano mang kalamidad,” Sevilla explained.

(All schools have disaster risk reduction coordinators. We also teach our teachers how to respond accordingly to different emergency situations – earthquake, typhoons, flood, and other natural calamities. Our schools need to be prepared in times of calamities) 

COMMUNITY EFFORT. Students of the Alternative Learning System of Rosario District in Cavite work together in cleaning the school surrounding. Photo by Dom Cueto

To strengthen this initiative, seminars on disaster risk reduction management and fire and earthquake drills were conducted.

Recently, the DepEd also inked a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with Rappler’s civic engagement arm, MovePH, as part of its disaster preparedness program for the new school year, the Department of Education (DepEd).

The education department also introduced a new jingle and mascot for its disaster preparedness campaign.

Different stakeholders

Brigada Eskwela mobilized thousands of volunteers from different sectors to public schools nationwide. 

 In Tagum City, 139 members of the Tagum city Motor Riders Association (TCMRA) and 5 Civilian Military Operation Infantry Division Philippine Armies served as Brigada Eskwela volunteers at La Filipina National High School.  

According to TCRMA President Edwin Campos, helping out is a sign of volunteerism and they are willing to serve the school in response to the invitation. (READ: Brigada Eskwela ‘a show of force’)

“Mao nay nakainspire sa amoa tungod kay naa mi mga anak na nag iskwela dinhia ug na nanginahanglan sa among suporta ang Department of Education para mulambo ang atong Department of Education.Usa sa mga rason na nalambigit mi aning Brigada Eskwela 2017 para ang atong ka-eskwelahanan diri sa syudad sa Tagum atong matabangan sila sa pagpanghinlo ug uban pang buluhaton diri sa eskwelahan,” Campos said.

(We are inspired to help since we have children in this school. Also, the Department of Education needs our support. One of the reasons why we are involved in Brigada Eskwela 2017 is for us to help the schools in Tagum in terms of cleanliness and other works to do)

FUTURE. Students at the Rizal Region National High School help sort our books during the Brigada Eskwela. Photo by Kurt Dela Peña

Likewise, the Rizal Region National High School (RRNHS), one of the major high schools in Alicia, Isabela, recorded hundreds of volunteers for the annual volunteer drive. 

Maribel Bocala, Head Teacher III, highlighted the importance of joining the program, which is ultimately to benefit the students in the community.  

“Kapag kasi welcoming ‘yung environment and at the same time, ‘yung teachers, magkakaroon sila (students) ng eagerness to study,” Bocala said.

(If the environment of the school is welcoming and at the same time, the teachers are welcoming, they will have the eagerness to study.)

She even emphasized that a good place for learning would lessen school problems like cutting classes and absences. Magkakaroon kasi sila ng positive outlook so imbes na magka-cutting class o ‘di kaya e mag-absent, hindi na, papasok na sila for they have a school that serves as a place for them to relax at the same time while studying,” she added.

(Because they will have a positive outlook, instead of cutting classes or being absent, they will not do it anymore for they will study because they have a school that serves as a place for them to relax at the same time while studying.)

Brigada Eskwela plus 

The effort to improve the public schools’ surroundings does not end with the week-long volunteer drive. 

With Brigada Eskwela Plus, DepEd hopes to ensure that school maintenance activities will continue throughout the school year.

“With Brigada Eskwela Plus, it’s our goal to improve children’s schooling until they finish basic education. The activities during Brigade Eskwela will be practiced throughout the year to ensure continuous community engagement,” DepEd Assistant Secretary Tonisito Umali said in a video message.

The activities under Brigada Eskwela Plus include community-led efforts to improve student participation and reduce dropouts or enroll in the ALS; and to improve student performance –

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