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Mindanao: 3 Million Students Lose Schools

More than three million students from nearly 7,000 schools in quake-affected areas in Mindanao were displaced following two powerful earthquakes in just two weeks.

The Department of Education (DepEd) said the displaced students would have to wait for the assessment of experts for safety reasons before returning to their classrooms.

In an interview by Daily Tribune, Paolo Aquino, Project Development Officer III at the Department of Education’s (DepEd) Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Service (DRRMS), said a total of 6,980 schools in various divisions have suspended classes following the magnitude 6.6 earthquake on Tuesday.

Aquino said classes in all levels for both private and private schools in the 28 school division offices from the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), Regions 10, 11 and 12 have been suspended to ensure the safety of the students and teachers.

“The total number of school division offices that have class suspensions due to the 6.6 magnitude earthquake is 28 school division offices, and that consists 6,980 schools. The class suspension started yesterday (Tuesday),” Aquino told Daily Tribune in a phone interview.

He added that a total of 3,326,822 students from these schools was affected by the class suspension triggered by the powerful earthquake that followed a previous one two weeks ago. (See related story).

“Right now, we are coordinating with our field counterparts in the affected areas in Regions 10 and 11. And we are consolidating reports on summary of class suspensions and then on the schools that have damages,” he said.

According to Aquino, the resumption of classes varies from areas affected and depending on the severity of the damages on school buildings.

“It will take some time for them (the students) to recover if their schools were heavily damaged by the earthquake. But those that only have minor damages probably by Monday they can already resume classes,” he said.

Cotabato Gov. Emmylou Mendoza, in a broadcast interview, said the 16 October magnitude 6.3 earthquake already damaged at least 273 school buildings in the province.

FACEBOOK user Anthony Allada shows the damaged part of the Magsaysay town hall in Mindanao after another major earthquake struck the island on Tuesday. AFP

She said they already requested independent structural engineers to help assess the damages on the school buildings.

“There was only a two-week interval between the powerful earthquakes. We cannot set aside the (structural) credibility of the buildings and the safety of our people,” Mendoza said.

Makeshift classrooms up

If needed, Aquino said the DepEd will build temporary learning spaces in the affected areas, so the students can continue with their studies while the repair and rehabilitation works of the damaged schools are ongoing.

“One of the responsive interventions being provided by DepEd is the provision of temporary learning spaces or makeshift classrooms made up of light materials. So, what we are doing is that based on the reported damages that we gathered on infrastructures, we will consolidate it… conduct validation, then provide funds for the construction of temporary learning spaces,” he explained.

The official said that there are particular criteria and computation in providing temporary spaces.

Apart from the makeshift classrooms, the DepEd will also coordinate with its partner organizations and agencies to provide the intervention response, recovery and rehabilitation of the affected schools.

“We have already coordinated with our partners to see the readily deployable tents, so whenever it is needed then we will give it right away to the affected areas,” Aquino said.

To ensure that the required 180 days of non-negotiable teacher-pupil contact time are met in lieu of class suspension, the schools can either implement make-up classes or attend classes through alternative delivery modes.

“We have alternative delivery modes like the modular wherein students are taking exams at their home or, if not, to have make-up classes every Saturday. But it depends on the strategy of the school division offices,” he said.

He said the agency has a quick response fund for the repair and reconstruction of damaged schools.

“We cannot give yet the exact amount or budget for the repair of damaged schools because it depends on what will be our computation on that. And once we’ve assessed already the damaged buildings and we have already come up with the program of works, then that’s the time that we can get the total funding requirement for repair and rehabilitation,” Aquino explained.

Initial assessment

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) reported a total of 133 infrastructures in Regions 10, 11, 12 and BARMM were damaged due to Tuesday’s quake.

Ninety-four schools, 20 private or commercial establishments, 11 health facilities, seven public structures and one place of worship were reported to have sustained structural damages.

Around 1,681 families, or 8,402 people, were displaced according to the NDRRMC’s situational report, with most of them from Kidapawan, M’lang and Tulunan — the epicenter of the quake — all in Cotabato.

FACEBOOK user Anthony Allada shows the damaged part of the Magsaysay town hall in Mindanao after another major earthquake struck the island on Tuesday. AFP

From the total number of people rendered either homeless or simply afraid to go back to their respective residences, 3,505 are now situated in evacuation centers while the rest are being attended to by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) outside the evacuation sites.

The NDRRMC said five fatalities were reported, while 394 others were injured and two remained missing.

Red Cross responds

Sen. Richard Gordon, who chairs the Philippine Red Cross (PRC), assured support and assistance for the affected residents in Mindanao.

Apart from assisting in the medical needs of the victims, Gordon said PRC equipment is on standby if needed.

“The Red Cross is preparing to support local health facilities that do not have power or running water in places such as South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, General Santos, and North Cotabato,” he said.

“Payloaders and equipment for clearing of collapsed buildings include search and rescue teams from other parts of the country are also on standby for requests for assistance,” he added.

The senator also reported that PRC local chapters in South Cotabato, Cotabato City, Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat, North Cotabato, Davao Del Sur, General Santos and Davao City have immediately dispatched ambulances, rescue teams and emergency personnel to the affected areas.

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This article first appeared on The Daily Tribune.

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