Children displaced by floods attend classes in evacuation sites

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/28 June) – Schoolchildren in Cotabato City and several other towns in Sultan Kudarat and North Cotabato provinces whose families were displaced by the floods since last month are now attending alternative classes in evacuation centers, the Department of Education in Region 12 or Southwestern Mindanao announced.

Dr. Isabelita Borres, DepEd Region 12 director, said the alternative classes mainly cater to pupils and students of at least 21 public elementary and secondary schools in the region that were directly affected by the continuing floods.

As of last Friday, she said 14 of the 28 public schools in Cotabato City, five in Lambayong town in Sultan Kudarat and two others in Pikit and Pigcawayan towns in North Cotabato have remained submerged in floodwaters.

Borres said they launched the alternative classes, which started Tuesday last week, to allow pupils and students whose families were temporarily staying in evacuation centers to continue with their schooling.

“This will allow our schoolchildren to continue with their classes and at the same time get some psychological comfort from the difficulties that they’re currently facing,” she said in a radio interview.

She said the initiative was among the interventions adopted by the DepEd regional office to help address the needs of schoolchildren within the calamity-affected areas.

Dubbed “Project Bakwit Emergency Education,” she said the program offers daily multi-grade classes for the displaced pupils and students within the evacuation centers.

Borres said the schoolchildren undergo two-hour class sessions using home-based modules that were provided by DepEd’s alternative learning system or ALS program.

She said the classes were being handled by teachers of the flood-hit public elementary and secondary schools.

Aside from the alternative classes, Borres said the DepEd regional office issued a directive to schools that were spared from the calamity to double their class shifts to accommodate pupils and students of the flooded schools.

She said the double shifts started Monday in various schools in Cotabato City, Lambayong in Sultan Kudarat and in Pigcawayan and Pikit towns in North Cotabato that were not affected by the floods.

Borres said regular classes in the 14 schools in Cotabato City that were spared from the floods also resumed Monday.

“We’re still evaluating the status of other schools because the floodwaters in some areas were still around two to five feet high,” she said.

In North Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat provinces, she said they sent some personnel from the regional office to assess the damage wrought by the floods to schools in the area.

Borres said they advised principals of schools that were only partially affected by the floods to resume their regular classes “and even utilize the principal’s office as classrooms when necessary.”

Meantime, Borres said the DepEd regional office has offered emergency loans worth P5,000 each to public school teachers and personnel in the region who were affected by the calamity.

She said they utilized the agency’s regional provident fund to finance the emergency loans.

Borres said the loan facility was initially opened to Cotabato City’s 1,100 public school teachers and personnel, some 384 of whom were reportedly rendered homeless by the floods. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)