AFTER TAAL VOLCANO ERUPTION: Group welcomes DepEd move to resume classes for learners

Children participating during a child friendly space activity of Save the Children. (Photo by Ella Carino/Save the Children)

Save the Children welcomed the decision of the Department of Education (DepEd) to resume regular classes starting Monday for thousands of learners affected by the Taal Volcano eruption.

More than 560,000 learners have been missing out on classes for almost a month. Of this figure, 55,000 were forced out of their homes located in the 14 kilometer danger zone of Taal, while the rest are enrolled in schools deeply buried in ashfall, and still without water and electricity or being used as evacuation centers.

Atty. Albert Muyot, Chief Executive Officer of Save the Children Philippines appealed to local governments in areas outside the 14 kilometer danger zone to ensure classes will resume based on DepEd’s recommendation.

“We call on schools to accommodate displaced learners to attend classes even without presenting school records,” said Atty. Muyot. He also urged schools to accommodate students who live within the areas to avoid putting burden on their families’ transportation allowance and to mitigate risks of children traveling in unusual places for them.

DepEd recommended the resumption of classes for learners affected by Taal Volcano eruption starting February 3.  The department also modified school calendar to allow learners to complete the number of school days lost due to the suspension of classes.

Save the Children however expressed concern that classes in primary and secondary schools within the 14-kilometer danger zone remain suspended unless the city/municipal mayor and/or DepEd, including principal or head teacher decide to resume classes.

Figures from DepEd showed that as of February 1, there are still 223 schools in Batangas and Cavite provinces that are still being used as evacuation centers.

“We appeal to the local government units to adopt immediate and doable solutions to facilitate the resumption of classes, while ensuring the displaced families are still given dignified refuge,” said Atty. Muyot.

Save the Children has advocated the enactment of Republic Act 10821, known as the Children’s Emergency Relief and Protection Act that prioritizes the needs of children, pregnant and lactating mothers in times of natural calamities and emergencies.

The law prohibits the use of classrooms as evacuation centers beyond the 15-day period. It directs local governments to locate alternative places as evacuation centers.

“Natural disasters such as the Taal Volcano eruption have devastating impact on children as they were forced out of their homes, lost their learning materials, notebooks and belongings due to ashfall,” said Atty. Muyot.

“The resumption of classes for children affected by Taal Volcano eruption helps restore normalcy in the lives of children,” he said.

Jerome Balinton, Humanitarian Manager of Save the Children Philippines said the organization will support the displaced learners with psychosocial support and the provision of school supplies and children hygiene kit.

Children in evacuation centers expressed sadness over the loss of their homes, destroyed school bags and notebooks due to heavy ashfall. Most of the learners said they miss attending classes.

“It’s sad because I’m not sure if we will be able to go back home or if our home is still not yet totally damaged. I also miss attending classes,” said a 16-year old evacuee in Balayan, Batangas who is only accompanied by her grandmother. She also told Save the Children staff that she lost contact with her relatives and friends, and poor wifi signal makes it difficult to communicate with her mother who works as a domestic worker in Saudi.

Save the Children deployed three emergency teams to Balayan, Batangas to conduct activities under Child Friendly Spaces where children can learn and play in a secured environment. The team also distributed family hygiene and household kits evacuees to ensure children are safe from getting preventable diseases.