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Kids return to schools with no classrooms

Philippines still struggles to rebuild after series of calamities

Kids return to schools with no classrooms

Schoolchildren are studying in makeshift classrooms in typhoon-ravaged areas (photo by Keith Bacongco)

Keith Bacongco, Davao City

June 17, 2013

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The new school year has started for millions of children from areas recently devastated by natural calamities. Many are attending classes in makeshift schools and classrooms.

In New Bataan town, Compostela Valley province, which was badly hit by Typhoon Bopha last year, only one classroom out of 15 at the school survived the devastation.

Typhoon Bopha, which hit the southern Philippines in December, killed more than 1,000 people and left more than 80,000 homeless.

Teachers are holding classes in tents set up by aid organizations.

Maria Diazon, the school principal, said authorities have not given the go ahead yet to build a new school on the site out of fear another calamity will hit the area.

The Department of Education has allocated US$163,000 to build new classrooms.

But the Department of Science and Technology says there is very little space available with only 189.19 hectares of land deemed suitable in the town, which covers 68,860 hectares and has a population of 47,470.

“Temporary learning spaces continue to provide an alternative, but with the onset of the rainy season, tent classrooms will not adequately provide protection for the children,” according to the United Nation’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

The UN organization says some 1,900 destroyed classrooms in the Caraga and Davao regions still need repairs, which is disrupting the lives and education of about 100,000 elementary school children in 561 schools.

Jesus Mateo, assistant secretary for education, has asked for understanding and sacrifice from students while urging local officials to coordinate more closely with the state weather bureau to ensure the safety of students during the typhoon season.

Thousands of students in Metro Manila were stranded in flooded streets last week after thunderstorms hit the national capital.

Mateo said the government has already started addressing classroom shortages in public and secondary schools. He said construction of 19,500 new classrooms in one-story school buildings across the country will be completed later this month.

Some 21 million preschoolers, elementary and high school students have enrolled in government-run schools around the country this year.

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