Back-to-school blues in CDO’s ‘bakwit’ centers

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/2 Jan) – The principal of the school that has now become the most congested evacuation center in Barangay Carmen here said they will resume classes as scheduled on Tuesday, albeit in “learning tents” and with no chairs nor tables since all of its 96 classrooms are still filled with Sendong evacuees.

Shirley A. Merida, West City Central School principal and in charge of West 1 District, said that so far, only 47 families sheltering in the school’s covered court have been transferred to the Carmen Parish Church. Sixteen families in the covered court still refused to transfer.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development, she said, has agreed to help clear the covered court for the resumption of classes on Tuesday.

But the school’s main problem is that all 96 classrooms are still full of evacuees. Some 657 families comprising 3,100 people still remain in school premises.

In her proposed lesson plan she showed MindaNews, Merida planned to begin the resumption of classes with a week-long psychosocial and stress debriefing sessions in in partnership with Xavier University psychologists. She said the sessions aim to process the traumatic experiences of their pupils due to the effects of tropical storm Sendong

“We will have to hold these sessions inside the learning tents since all of our classrooms still have evacuees living in them. We cannot just drive them away,” said Merida. She added that they have requested the office of the city administrator to provide them with sacks so their students would not have to squat on the mud.

The school has 5,318 students, 678 of whom have been severely affected by the flash floods. Most of the victims were not able to salvage their school materials such notebooks, pens, textbooks and school uniforms.

Merida said that out of the school’s 140 teachers, 128 were also affected by the flood. She said she already met with the affected teachers and most of whom said they will be able to return to work on Tuesday.

“Only one teacher will not be able to work tomorrow since she has lost her three children to the flood and her husband is still recuperating in the hospital,” said Merida.

Aside from their own covered court, Merida said they are also negotiating with neighboring St. Mary’s School and Acsat, a computer school, so they could use their covered courts to hold their classes temporarily.

She said when the evacuees are finally moved to temporary shelters still being constructed by the city, they still have to repair the school’s 98 toilets as most of these have bogged down after more than two weeks’ use by the evacuees.

As district-in-charge, Merida also handles five other public schools – in Balulang, Macanhan, Sacred Heart, KM5 and Upper Carmen.

“I still do not know how to open the two schools (in Balulang and Macanhan) since these are still full of waist-deep mud,” Merida said. (Cong B. Corrales / MindaNews)