Luz Almeda, DepEd Region 12 director, announced this morning that all public schools in the region would facilitate enrolments free of any charge or the usual school fees until the second week of July.
"This is to make sure that everyone, regardless of age, who wants to go to school will have that opportunity this time," she told reporters. She said she has directed teachers and school administrators to strictly observe the department's "zero collection" policy during enrolment or they would face administrative sanctions.
She reiterated that the payment of the usual school fees, such as the Parents Teachers Community Association or PTCA contribution and membership fees to various organizations should only be voluntary and were not a requirement for admission. She said "voluntary fees" could be settled until the end of the school year.
During the extended enrolment period, Almeda said public schools would also accept the students or pupils who lack the required academic credentials or documents but on a temporary basis. "So all those who are interested to enroll will not have to do anything except to just show at the nearest public school," she pointed out.
Almeda said they have initially coordinated with local government officials in the region, from the provincial level down to the puroks, to help facilitate the enrollment of "all children in school age."
"We asked them to join our personnel make a house-to-house campaign and check if their constituents who are aged six to 16 or 18-years-old are already enrolled," she said.
Almeda said they adopted these adjustments after finding out that the region's enrolment figures as of today were still way below their targeted two percent increase for the school year. She, however, failed to cite any figures saying they have yet to complete the partial enrollment reports from the region's four provincial and five city school divisions.
Southwestern Mindanao is composed of the provinces of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, Cotabato and cities of Koronadal, Cotabato, General Santos, Tacurong and Kidapawan.
In a report, the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB)-Region 12 noted that the region's enrolees in the elementary level last year reached 548,743, increasing by 1.4 percent from the previous year
For this school year, the NSCB said the region has an estimated 716,400 children aged 6 to 12 years old based on their single-age population projection.
"Of this number, about 14.7 percent, or some 105,400, are 6 years old – the estimated number of children expected to enter Grade 1 this school year," the report said.
South Cotabato, which includes General Santos and Koronadal cities has the most number with about 34,800 followed by North Cotabato, including Kidapawan City, with about 31,900.
The NSCB report did not include figures for the secondary level.
Allan Farnazo, DepEd-South Cotabato assistant superintendent, earlier said they targeted an enrolment of at least 95,000 for both elementary and secondary level in all public schools in the province's 10 municipalities for this year.
This year's target is two percent higher than last year's total enrolment record of around 92,000.