Teachers, children go back to school for psychosocial classes inside tents

BAGANGA, Davao Oriental (MindaNews / 4 Jan) – Almost a month after typhoon “Pablo” hit the province last December 4, teachers and children have gone back to schools for psychosocial classes inside tents or “learning spaces”.

Teachers conduct their classes inside tents in Baganga Central Elementary School in Baganga town on January 3, 2012 , after typhoon Pablo destroyed most of the schools in Davao Oriental. MindaNews photo by Erwin Mascarinas
Teachers conduct their classes inside tents in Baganga Central Elementary School in Baganga town on January 3, 2012 , after typhoon Pablo destroyed most of the schools in Davao Oriental. MindaNews photo by Erwin Mascarinas

At least 100 school children were singing rhymes and cheers while waiting for the visit of Education Secretary Bro. Armin Luistro in the Baganga Central Elementary School on Thursday afternoon.

Luistro, along with regional director Gloria Benigno of the Department of Education (DepEd-11) and staff, paid a visit to 10 public schools in Boston, Cateel and Baganga in Davao Oriental.

Visited were the Boston Central Elementary School, Boston National High School, Carabatuan Elementary School and Sibahay Elementary School in Boston; Cateel Central Elementary School, Cateel Vocational High School, Cateel National Agricultural High School and Lambahan Central Elementary School in Cateel; Baganga Central Elementary School and Baganga National High School in Baganga.

In an interview, Luistro said DepEd teachers, principals and staff cannot allow Pablo to win and that “we are better than Pablo.”

He explained that even though residents may have lost everything, as long as the teachers are there, and the students keep going to school, then “hope is alive.”

“That’s why we insist they should go back to school,” Luistro said.

He said the DepEd is looking at sustainability of classes despite holding them in tents.

“Most of them have come back to school,” Luistro said, stressing that it is now their job to “make sure that the school continues to be a safe place.”

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More tents

He said that next week, 200 more tents will be distributed to the typhoon-hit areas in Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental, noting that 60 tents have already been in place.

The DepEd, Luistro said, has requested for buffer stocks of textbooks from other regions that were not affected by Pablo.

DepEd-11 spokesperson Jenielito Atillo earlier told MindaNews that the region has only 4,509 pieces of assorted textbooks and 30 pieces of teachers’ manual for elementary education, and 1,853 textbooks and 30 manuals for secondary education.

Luistro said they already requested P1.1 billion from the Department of Budget and Management for the replacement, repair and rehabilitation of devastated classrooms in the provinces.

Already enlisted, he said, are 1,100 classrooms for replacement, and 1,300 classrooms for repair and rehabilitation, which include some schools in the Caraga region.

Luistro cited that the target completion of classrooms will be within the next two months or until April or May this year as the DepEd wanted the classrooms to be ready by June.

For faster reconstruction work, pre-fabricated materials will be used for the classrooms, Luistro said, adding that their quality passed the standards of the DepEd. Using traditional materials, he explained, would take three to four months of work.

He added that they plan to conduct school-based feeding program with the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

Still difficult

Luistro said that by January 14, classes should resume. But in areas where classrooms are yet to be restored, only psychosocial sessions can be conducted.

Marivic Bandayanon, Grade 2 teacher in the Lucod Elementary School in Baganga, said it is still difficult to hold regular classes, especially because the classrooms lost their roofing to the typhoon.

Although they have started having psychosocial classes inside a tent, only about 100 out of 600 students have attended, she said.

A tent can only accommodate about a hundred children.

“Students cannot go to school without having eaten anything as most of their families have not recovered from their livelihood yet,” she said in Cebuano.

In Coog Elementary School at Barangay Mahan-og, the farthest from the municipal center in Baganga, Grade 3 teacher Cheryl Lancian said two classrooms are still being occupied by four families who sought refuge there since the typhoon.

“Having classes in the tent is alright,” she said, “as long as there is a place where we could meet the students.”

Better than before Pablo

After speaking to the elementary students of the Baganga Central Elementary School for about five minutes, Luistro went to the nearby Baganga National High School situated beside the beach.

Inside a tent, at least 60 high school students and their teachers welcomed Luistro, singing a jingle they practiced before his arrival.

He told them there will be a “new master plan” for the campus that is better than what they had before Pablo came. They all clapped with cheerful faces.

Luistro said the lessons they experienced from the typhoon are more than what they can read in books.

“Share your stories to the next generations,” he told them, adding that they will be writing new textbooks containing how they survived Pablo.

Mary Ann Sayman, a fourth year student, said the typhoon inspired her to continue her schooling to become a nurse.

Admitting that her family’s house and a hectare of corn and coconut trees were all damaged, and looking back at their horrible experiences with typhoon Pablo, she said she wanted to help other people, especially during calamities. (Lorie Ann A. Cascaro / MindaNews)