Students in public elementary and high schools will once again jostle for space when classes start on Monday because there are not enough classrooms to accommodate them.
Although the government had built enough classrooms to ease the 66,000 backlog at the start of President Benigno Aquino 3rd’s term in 2010, overcrowding remains a problem because the number of enrollees continues to grow and last year’s series of devastating natural disasters damaged or destroyed dozens of schools, particularly in Central Visayas.
Secretary Herminio Coloma of the Presidential Communications Operations Office said the powerful earthquake that shook Cebu and Bohol on October 15, 2013 and typhoon Yolanda that tore through Central Visayas resulted in classroom backlogs anew.
He made the admission after critics carped at the Education department’s plan to implement a three-day school week. Critics noted that the President boasted at the recently held World Economic Forum that the classrooms shortage has been resolved.
“When the administration took over in 2010, the classroom backlog was 66,000 and we have already built 66,213 classrooms, or beyond the target. But after this happened, calamities struck us. Yolanda, the 7.2 magnitude earthquake and the violence brought about by the Zamboanga siege destroyed our schools,” Coloma said on Radyo ng Bayan.
He was referring to the month-long clashes between government troops and members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) who occupied barangays in Zamboanga.
Coloma explained that more classrooms are needed because the old ones needed to be replaced and more children are going to school due to the implementation of the K-to-12 program that makes sending toddlers to kindergarten mandatory.
“The education sector’s growth is dynamic. We have lots of students and that number won’t be stagnant because we have a young population and our anti-poverty programs such as the Conditional Cash Transfer require children to come to school.
The number of students has been increasing over the years and the same is true for the requirements for classrooms, textbooks, school tables and chairs,” he said.
But he assured that the government is working to address the classroom shortage.
“ The government may not be perfect but it is taking action in meeting the needs of our students. All the backlogs are being considered in drafting the 2015 budget that we will soon submit to Congress,” Coloma said.
Reps. Sherwin Gatchalian of Valenzuela City and Luzviminda Ilagan of Gabriela earlier slammed the three-day school week plan, under which students will attend classes on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., while the second set will have classes on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
“Teachers will be forced to compress their lessons because of limited time while students will not have enough time to digest information. The quality of education and children’s learning capacity will be compromised,” Gatchalian said.
“This will force children to wake up very early for their 6 a.m. class, affecting their sleep and in turn, their productivity in school. This would exhaust them for they will have to toil for 12 hours—even longer than the 8-hour work schedule for adults,” he noted.
In the National Capital Region, 743 out of the 865 public schools are already on double shifting schedules.
“Reducing the five-day class schedule is the latest proof of the Aquino government’s ineptitude and utter abandonment of its obligation to ensure that every Filipino child enjoys the basic right to education. What will our children learn with shortened class hours and fewer days in school?” Ilagan said.
“Year after year, we are plagued by these shortages in classrooms, teachers and textbooks. Clearly, the Aquino government has miserably failed to appropriate sufficient funds to adequately address these shortages,” he added.