Students suffer in cramped, makeshift rooms in Yolanda areas

Agence France-Presse

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Students suffer in cramped, makeshift rooms in Yolanda areas
New regulations requiring higher building standards so schools withstand future typhoons have caused delays in government's plan to build or repair 20,000 rooms

TACLOBAN CITY, Philippines – Tens of thousands of students in the central Philippines began the school year on Monday, June 2, in steamy tents and other makeshift classrooms, 7 months after Super Typhoon Yolanda (international code: Haiyan) devastated the region.

The government said it had hoped to rebuild or repair 20,000 classrooms before students returned, but delays were encountered due to new regulations requiring higher building standards so schools withstand future typhoons.

“These are the birth pangs of making sure that resiliency…would be the basis for better structures,” presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said in Manila. “In the meantime, the students will be studying in structures which are not yet resilient, but we hope for their understanding.”

At the Panaluran Central School in Tacloban, a coastal city which bore the brunt of the typhoon, hundreds of sweat-soaked children crammed into 3 temporary classrooms made from steel frames and corrugated iron sheets as the temperature outside hit 30 degrees Celsius (86 Fahrenheit).

“It is pitiful to see them packed like sardines,” said housewife Gina Villamor as she anxiously waited for her children, aged 6 and 10, to finish their first day at school.
“It is so hot in there. And there is no electric fan.”

Yolanda, the most powerful typhoon ever recorded on land, left more than 7,000 people dead as it tore across the central Philippines in November last year. 

Storm surges higher than trees that swept kilometers inland compounded the devastation, destroying entire towns.

More than 1,000 schools in the typhoon zones were damaged or destroyed, according to Manan Kotak, the education cluster head of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Tacloban.

He told Agence France-Presse that  between 80,000 and 100,000 children were expected to return to schools on Monday in the central areas that Yolanda battered, about half of them in Tacloban.

Panaluran school principal Asela Refuerzo said teaching the 820 students who had enrolled would be a huge challenge, with a lack of toilets just one of the many problems.

“It will be difficult for them to learn if this lasts,” Refuerzo said.

Malacañang’s Lacierda and an education department official contacted by Agence France-Presse said they could not give a timeline for when the schools would be rebuilt.

Officials have previously said it would take many years and billions of dollars to fully rehabilitate the typhoon-hit areas, made up mostly of farming and fishing communities that were already among the poorest in the Philippines.

Hundreds of thousands of people continue to live in makeshift shelters, while many damaged or destroyed hospitals are still not functioning properly. – 

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