Dismal attendance in reopened schools in Yolanda areas

DepEd has teamed up with Save the Children and UNICEF to bring back 500,000 children to classrooms

LONG-TERM. DepEd hopes to bring back half a million kids to schools in Yolanda-stricken areas. File photo by Dennis M. Sabangan/EPA

MANILA, Philippines – As early as November 18, or 10 days after Yolanda (international codename: Haiyan) first made landfall in the country, classes had resumed in many school divisions across the Visayas and parts of Mimaropa.

Exactly one month after the super typhoon, however, international group Save the Children said only 30% of reopened schools are being attended by students.

“Despite thousands of classrooms reopening, there is still vital outreach work to be done to boost attendance rates, with only 30% of available school places being taken up so far,” the non-governmental organization (NGO) said in a statement Friday, December 6.

In Tacloban City, Education Secretary Armin Luistro said classes almost did not resume as planned on December 2 due to “differences in opinion with local government.” (READ: Hard choices for teachers after Yolanda)

“Most of the local government think [that in] reopening of classes, you have to have the infrastructure. We in education, we’re the other way around. Infrastructure is one component, but not the only [component]. But I’m happy that we were able to converse with them and they agreed to support us in the reopening,” Luistro said on the sidelines of a recent education conference.

Latest Department of Education (DepEd) estimates pegged at about 4,500 the number of classrooms that need to be replaced. This number does not include those for repairs only.

Meanwhile, Save the Children said out of 1.61 million children affected by Yolanda, 1.127 million were left without access to education. To encourage attendance, the organization said they will work with local communities to support families in bringing back their children to school.

Long-term recovery plans

DepEd teamed up with Save the Children and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) for long-term education recovery plans, with an aim of bringing back 500,000 children to classrooms. (READ: Back to basics: Leaving notes, finding people)

For starters, Save the Children said, “Thousands of fully equipped tents will serve as substitute learning facilities for schools that were decimated during the typhoon.”

Earlier this week, the first temporary learning space opened in Dulag, Leyte, with more facilities set to open across Leyte and Panay Island in the coming days.

The NGO distributed for the past month 110 tarpaulin covers to damaged Leyte schools. Next week, 300 more tents will be delivered.

Aside from providing vital sanitation facilities, furniture, back-to-school kits, and teaching and learning materials, they also equipped 120 teachers and school staff through psychosocial debriefing to be able to respond to the needs of the children. (READ: Dear Teachers: Stand tall – not for ourselves, but for others)

“Returning to school is important for children to regain a routine and a sense of normalcy. It also provides children with psycho-social support and protects them from hazardous labour and trafficking,” Rachel McKinney, Education Advisor for Save the Children, said.

Like the activities on the first day back, children will spend their first two weeks in school participating in programs that will address possible anxieties they may have suffered since Yolanda. (READ: How schools can help kids heal from disaster trauma– Rappler.com