MANILA, Philippines – Headcount is always the first duty of teachers whenever classes resume after a disaster. This was the case after classes were suspended for 2 weeks in war-torn Zamboanga City, and 3 weeks in quake-hit Bohol.
But this time, it is the Department of Education (DepEd) that will be doing the headcount of their own people, Education Secretary Br Armin Luistro said Monday, November 11.
“Our first task is to account for all our people,” Luistro said in a statement. He said the next 48 hours will be spent establishing contact with division offices that could not be reached in the past days to determine “if they are operational, and if so, to what extent.”
Days before Super Typhoon Yolanda ravaged parts of the Visayas, he already urged school heads to make sure classrooms are secured. But reports in the isolated Eastern Samar town of Guiuan alone estimate that 100% of the structures sustained damage or had their roofs blown away.
Luistro said getting in touch with schools will be next. “Once we have done so, we will ask them to contact schools to assess the situation of our teachers and personnel and determine the extent of damage.”
The department’s central office established a task force to track missing and injured personnel, as well as their relatives.
On Sunday, November 10, Assistant Secretary Rey Laguda, together with the department’s disaster risk and reduction management team, went to Tacloban City to assess the situation from the ground. “Hopefully, we can get out by Wednesday,” he told Rappler.
Until then, Laguda said the team may be unreachable after the typhoon destroyed communication lines. (READ: Help map cell signals in areas affected by Yolanda)
Any funds left?
After their division and school officials are accounted for, Luistro said they will start setting up temporary learning spaces and producing replacement learning materials for classes to resume “at the soonest time, after debriefing and psychosocial intervention.”
Finance and Administration Undersecretary Francisco Varela said earlier that the remaining balance from the department’s Quick Response Fund (QRF) will be allotted to purchase tents, build new classrooms, and repair ones that were not heavily-damaged in areas affected by the recent 7.2-magnitude earthquake in Central Visayas.
But after President Benigno Aquino III declared a state of national calamity on Monday night, appropriation for calamity funds can be expected in the coming days.
Aquino said an approved P1.1 billion will be added to the QRF of the Department of Social Welfare and Development and the Department of Public Works and Highways.
P18.7 billion had also been set aside from calamity funds, contingency funds, and savings for places hit by Yolanda, but the government has yet to specify how much will go into the rebuilding of schools.
Classes have already been suspended in some municipalities in Cebu and in other areas affected by tropical depression Zoraida. Luistro gave superintendents authority to suspend classes in damaged schools, and to resume classes but only after consulting with local officials. – Rappler.com
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