Gatchalian scores DepEd anew for unsafe water, dilapidated toilets in 3,000 public schools

Gatchalian scores DepEd anew for unsafe water, dilapidated toilets in 3,000 public schools

Photo by George Calvelo

Valenzuela City Congressman and senatorial candidate Win Gatchalian has scored the Department of Education (DepEd) over the lack of regular source of safe water and properly functioning toilets in over 3,000 schools for basic education.

“This constitutes failure on the part of the Aquino administration to effectively address the gaps in education that have repeatedly plagued education stakeholders,” said Gatchalian, a majority member of the House committees on basic education and culture and on higher and technical education.

More than 3,600 elementary and secondary schools do not have a regular source of safe and clean water, reports quoted Education Secretary Armin Luistro as saying during the 2016 Rotary International Presidential Conference on Water, Sanitation and Hygiene in Schools (WASH). The number makes up 7.76 percent of the 46,739 public schools handling basic education in the country.

Luistro also revealed that at least 3,620 public schools had “substandard” toilets, and the agency has yet to evaluate if the toilets are actually functional.

“The percentage may make the problem look trivial, but imagine how many children go to those schools that do not have the very basic necessities. That is definitely not how public service should be,” said Gatchalian, who is running for senator under the Partido Galing at Puso (PGP) ticket of presidential frontrunner Grace Poe and leading vice presidential bet Chiz Escudero.

The Valenzuela City lawmaker also questioned how the perennial problems in education are still left unresolved despite the DepEd’s hefty cut from the annual budget.

“DepEd consistently gets a lion’s share of the yearly national budget, yet it has not addressed the lack of basic necessities,” he said.

The allocation for the DepEd has come a long way since 2011, with a budget then of P207.3 billion (inclusive of the School Building Fund) growing to P436.5 billion for this year.

Gatchalian previously scored the DepEd’s “poor planning” in its implementation of senior high school, following a report by the Philippine Star last year on the lack of electricity and water supply in many schools that offer Grade 11 this year and Grade 12 in 2017.

The report indicated that 97 senior high schools will be established in public schools that have no electricity, and another 250 on existing school buildings that have no access to water supply.

“This reflects poor planning and lack of foresight on the part of implementors of the K to 12 program, especially the Department of Education. Electricity and access to water supply are basic necessities to any school which should not have been overlooked,” Gatchalian had pointed out.

The NPC senatorial bet added that planning for the implementation of K to 12 happened years before. “There is simply no excuse for concerned agencies to neglect the basic necessities of electricity and water supply,” he said.

The Philippine Star also reported that most of the schools are in Mindanao, specifically in CARAGA region and in Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

“This means that so many of the schools that will offer grades 11 and 12 have no access to basic utilities.  It is also no coincidence that the schools which have no power and water supplies are in regions where poverty remains high and where the benefits of K to 12 is needed the most,” explained Gatchalian. (Monica Cantilero)