MANILA, Philippines – This year's National Schools Maintenance Week or Brigada Eskwela will highlight one of the Duterte administration's priorities in the education sector: the Alternative Learning System (ALS).
Education Secretary Leonor Briones on Thursday, May 11, said there will be special desks in schools from May 15 to May 20 during Brigada Eskwela so ALS volunteers and learners can register for the program.
In Cebu City, where the Department of Education (DepEd) will kick off its Brigada Eskwela on May 15, the government's target is to reach about 500 to 1,000 out-of-school youth.
"Right now, the estimate is there are about 4 million young people [in the country] who are out of school [at] gusto namin ma-draw in sa ALS. This is where malaking tulong ang civil society groups because they help identify potential students for our ALS programs," Briones said during Thursday's press conference.
(Right now, the estimate is there are about 4 million young people [in the country] who are out of school and we want to draw them to ALS. This is where civil society groups can help a lot because they help identify potential students for our ALS programs.)
She said the integration of ALS into Brigada Eskwela is very important given President Rodrigo Duterte's instruction to give the program special attention. (READ: All eyes on ALS, 'centerpiece' of basic ed under Duterte)
"Many of our children still are unable to join the formal learning system with all its improvements, with all its opportunities, and with the all-out support of the public," the education secretary explained.
"Mayroon pa ring 'di nakakaabot because of poverty, because of long distance. 'Yung iba tumitigil dahil one of the most frequent reasons is early marriages – mga 12, 13, 14 years old nag-aasawa na for different reasons: cultural, poverty, and so on. So bibigyan natin sila ng opportunity."
(There are students who can't go to school because of poverty, because of long distance. Some of them stop schooling because one of the most frequent reasons is early marriages – those who are 12, 13, 14 years old already enter into marriages for different reasons: cultural, poverty, and so on. So we'll give them the opportunity.)
Campaign vs drugs
Another priority of the Duterte administration is mandatory education on the evils of drugs. Briones said they are working closely with the health department to start "very soon" the drug testing of teachers. (READ: DepEd wants alternative learning for youth in drug rehab)
"Nag-select na ng sample size. Right now our team is in Davao, tine-testing na nila kung may mag-positive. We'll be doing it very soon, malapit na, pero hindi lang namin i-announce 'yan, siguro result i-announce pero 'yung actual testing hindi namin gagawin. Hindi naman siguro maganda para sa privacy ng ating mga teachers and eventually our students," she explained.
(We already selected the sample size. Right now our team is in Davao to check if anyone will test positive. We'll be doing it very soon, but we won't announce that, maybe we'll announce the result but we won't announce the actual testing. I don't think it's good for the privacy of our teachers and eventually our students.)
Even the funding for the drug testing is already available, according to Briones.
"Ang plano natin is mandatory testing ng mga teachers, pero hindi 'yung sasabihin na school is drug-free, because the assumption is the school is drug-free. These transactions happen outside the schools, or sa gate," she added.
(The plan is the mandatory testing of teachers, but we don't plan on declaring schools as drug-free because the assumption is the school is drug-free. These transactions happen outside the schools, or at the gates.)
On Thursday, the DepEd also announced Brigada Eskwela Plus, a program that will ensure school maintenance activities will happen throughout the school year. Other main activities under Brigada Eskwela Plus include:
Public elementary and high schools in the country will begin classes on June 5. – Rappler.com
Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.