Disaster-resilient classrooms in Aklan
In good weather, these classrooms are where the young minds of Aklan are molded. But in times of disaster, they're shelter for those who lost their homes.
Jee Geronimo reports.
Jhonalie Tolentino and her family is used to packing and leaving.
They live near the shorelines in New Washington, Aklan where the strongest typhoons make landfall.
They lived through Typhoon Frank.
They thought Typhoon Yolanda would be manageable until it left their house in ruins.
JHONALIE TOLENTINO, RESIDENT, NEW WASHINGTON, AKLAN: Talaga dito, ‘pag masama yung panahon, panalangin na lang. Yung sa Yolanda ano po talaga, yung bahay namin na-ano ng tubig, wala. Inakyat ng tubig, then natumba talaga siya. Yung half portion, kinain ng tubig. Tsaka yung mga gamit, lahat basa.
(When the weather gets bad, all we can rely on are prayers. During Yolanda, our house was flooded. Water rose, and then it fell apart. Half of it was engulfed by the waters. All our possessions were soaked)
They sought shelter in New Washington Elementary School, like they always do during typhoons.
But Yolanda did not spare the school.
All its 36 classrooms were partially damaged, including 5 heritage Gabaldon classrooms.
More than a year since the disaster, the school is in better shape and building back better.
It is one of 7 schools in Aklan that received a disaster-resilient classroom from Habitat for Humanity and Globe Platinum.
This Noah’s Ark Classroom stands just a few meters away from the Sports Complex where evacuees of New Washington first run to during disasters.
The classroom is big and strong enough for 5 families complete with amenities needed in times of disasters.
Educators say the country needs stronger classrooms since schools are always the first to open doors to evacuees.
EMELDA FUENTES, PRINCIPAL, NEW WASHINGTON ELEMENTARY SCHOOL: Kung maiiwasan lang sana, may sariling evacuation center, mas mabuti, pero kung wala, the best nila is schools. At saka kung dun sila sa iisang lugar lang din, na hawa-hawa sila ‘pag may sakit, hawa-hawa rin yung gamit, hawa-hawa yung amoy, mas mabuti na nasa classrooms sila, kasi at least safe sila dito.
(If we can avoid it, there should be a dedicated evacuation center. It would be better but otherwise, schools are the next best thing. And if they’re all bundled up in one place, diseases spread more quickly, the stench will stick. But it’d be better if they were in classrooms because it’s safer.)
Aklan also plans to resettle shoreline families to safer areas with access to livelihood.
But Jhonalie is only willing to move her family near a school that can withstand disasters
Jee Geronimo, Rappler, Aklan – Rappler.com