149 schools in Zamboanga City reopen

FLAG-RAISING. A soldier looks over a group of students and teachers raising the Philippine flag during the reopening of classes in Sta. Maria Central School. Photo by LeAnne Jazul/Rappler

FLAG-RAISING. A soldier looks over a group of students and teachers raising the Philippine flag during the reopening of classes in Sta. Maria Central School.

Photo by LeAnne Jazul/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines - After a two-week halt, 149 schools reopened Wednesday, September 25, in non-affected areas of Zamboanga City.

The Crisis Management Committee identified these schools as those outside the 7-km radius from the conflict zone.

But many parents still refuse to send their kids to school for fear that the fighting has not completely subsided. 

As of 12 noon, attendance in every school that has already reported to the school superintendent has not exceeded 10% of the total school population.

The Department of Education (DepEd) earlier said 167 schools can already resume classes, but Undersecretary Rizalino Rivera told Rappler in a phone interview some barangays recommended that classes remain suspended in their areas.

Meanwhile, 33 schools in the 4 barangays and 8 island barangays affected by the standoff will remain closed. 

BACK TO SCHOOL? Children from evacuation centers line up for the ceremonial opening of schools. Photo by LeAnne Jazul/Rappler

BACK TO SCHOOL? Children from evacuation centers line up for the ceremonial opening of schools.

Photo by LeAnne Jazul/Rappler

During the ceremonial opening of classes in Sta. Maria Central School, teachers came in full attendance, but only 16 students initially attended.

To fill the school grounds, children from the school's gymnasium – which served as one of the evacuation centers in Barangay Talon-Talon – were asked to line up for the ceremony attended by Rivera, Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, and Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman.

Rappler saw one parent leaving the school compound with a student, and when asked if there were classes, she said only 2 students were in their classroom. She added that majority of the parents are still waiting for things to normalize.

Poor attendance

Some parents are still wary of sending their children to school, DepEd Zamboanga City Superintendent Pete Natividad told Rappler in a phone interview.

He observed some parents will only send their children once they see many students in the classrooms.

Security also remains a great concern, with false text messages circulating that thousands of Moro National Liberation Front rebels are still in Zamboanga. 

"Para magbalik sa normal...magtiwala tayo sa mga awtoridad. Bakit pa tayo magreresume ng klase kung walang batang mag-attend ng classes?" Natividad said.

(So we can go back to normal...let's trust authorities. Why else are we resuming classes if we don't have children attending them?)

READY. A child wears a smile on his first day back in school in Zamboanga City. Photo by LeAnne Jazul/Rappler

READY. A child wears a smile on his first day back in school in Zamboanga City.

Photo by LeAnne Jazul/Rappler

'Uncertainty'

But for Rivera, the mood in the schools reflected a slow return to normalcy.

"[Students and teachers are] happy, smiling, but you still sense a natural feeling of uncertainty," Rivera said in Filipino.

If the situation remains safe, he said regular classes may resume in a week's time. For now, teachers were tasked to do a headcount of their students and assess if any intervention is needed. 

"We want it to be learner-focused. In fact [if] some of [the teachers] can say our students are ready, they can do it (conduct regular classes)," Rivera added.

DepEd has yet to determine when make-up classes will be conducted, as Rivera said the main concern right now is to provide psychosocial aid to both students and teachers. 

They will also continue tracking students in evacuation centers and other areas. For schools affected by the crisis, about 12,000 students will need to undergo Alternative Delivery Modes for the next 3 months.- Rappler.com 

Jee Y. Geronimo

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.

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