Even though the pilot tests of localized and limited face-to-face classes have yet to start, Senator Win Gatchalian said the Department of Education (DepEd) should lose no time in putting up the much needed infrastructure for the safe reopening of schools.
“Dapat ngayon pa lang ay pinaghahandaan na natin ang muling pagbubukas ng mga paaralan at gawin nating prayoridad ang pagkakaroon ng sapat, ligtas, at matibay na mga pasilidad, pati na rin ng malinis na tubig sa ating mga paaralan upang matiyak ang kaligtasan ng ating mga mag-aaral at mga guro.” said Gatchalian.
According to the senator, adequate water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) facilities should be ensured especially in schools where they are not available. According to DepEd, 3,861 public schools have no access to potable water, while 7,704 group handwashing facilities need to be constructed.
Under the 2021 national budget, P11,146,531,000 is allotted for Basic Education Facilities, P2,920,325,000 of which is for the construction, replacement, and completion of kindergarten, elementary, and secondary school buildings, and technical vocational laboratories.
The P2.9-billion allocation also covers the construction of water and sanitation facilities as well as the installation or replacement of access facilities for persons with disabilities such as ramps, handrails, and tactile paving. Another P4,706,100,000 is allotted under Basic Education Facilities for the rehabilitation, renovation, repair, and improvement of these same buildings and facilities.
Though Gatchalian proposes the establishment of an evacuation center in every city and municipality in the country in Senate Bill No. 747 or the Evacuation Center Act, he acknowledges that some local government units (LGUs) rely on school facilities during calamities in the absence of available sites for evacuation centers.
In areas where there are no available sites for construction, Gatchalian seeks improvements in school facilities and structures being used as evacuation centers, which should be able to withstand wind speeds of three hundred twenty (320) kilometers per hour or two hundred (200) miles per hour and moderate seismic activity of at least 7.2 magnitude.
“Matapos ang mahabang panahon na wala ang ating mga kabataan sa paaralan, dapat lang na tiyakin nating ligtas ang babalikan nilang mga gusali at silid-aralan,” the senator concluded.