BALUT ISLAND, Davao del Sur: Millions of public elementary and secondary students ended their vacation and went back to school as the Department of Education (DepEd) formally opened school year 2015-2016 on Monday.
Education Secretary Armin Luistro noted that this year’s school opening is better than the previous years as school personnel from various schools have prepared well.
“This year’s school opening is generally better than the past three or four years,” Luistro told reporters in a news briefing at Angel F. Olarte Sr. Elementary School in Barangay Batuganding in Sarangani town on this island.
Luistro visited 18 public schools on Balut Island, together with DepEd regional officials and Metro Manila-based reporters.
They took the habal-habal or motorcycle taxis and a dump truck through slippery and hilly terrains and rode motorized outriggers to reach schools in remote villages.
Balut Island is 6 to 8 hours via ferry from Digos City, also in Davao del Sur.
“In general, I’ve seen our schools very prepared,” Luistro said.
Local folk said this was the first time that a DepEd secretary visited the island.
For Helen Arnado, principal of Mabila Elementary School, Luistro’s visit to their school has lifted the morale of the teachers, most of whom are from mainland Mindanao.
“Nakaka-inspire po. Hindi po namin talaga maisip na mangyayari ito. Nakakaiyak [Luistro’s visit is inspiring. We did not think that it would happen. It is something to cry over],” Arnado told The Manila Times.
“Unang beses po na may bumisita po sa amin na Education secretary. Ang akala po namin napabayaan na po kami ng national. Tuwang-tuwa ang mga estudyante dahil ngayon lang sila nakakita ng taga-DepEd mula sa region at mula sa Maynila, kaya maraming salamat po [This is the first time that an Education secretary visited us. We thought that the national government has forgotten us. The students are very happy because this is the first time for them to see people from the regional DepEd and from Manila, thank you],” she added.
According to Luistro, the biggest challenge for the Education department is to make sure that students come to school even on the first day of classes.
On his personal visit to schools here, he said he noticed that many students in rural areas do not attend classes during the first week of school opening.
Luistro urged school principals and local officials to find those who miss the first week of school and visit them.
When asked on why he chose to visit Balut Island on the opening of classes, he said it is important for educators to know the needs of every school.
“In places like this, senior high school [is important],” Luistro explained.
He said late enrolees will be accepted until Friday.
‘Fault’ schools shuttered
Schools that were found located along the West Valley Fault will be shut down.
Luistro said he had ordered closure of these schools, which, he added, will be demolished later.
The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology or Phivolcs had said movements in the fault could trigger a massive earthquake–the “Big One”– in Metro Manila and nearby areas.
In Metro Manila, the start of classes also went smoothly and orderly.
Students of Civil Aeronautics Administration Elementary School in Las Piñas City took part in an earthquake drill on school opening day.
The Office of the Assistant Schools Division Superintendent in the city has required all the 22 elementary schools and 12 high schools there to conduct such drill to ensure safety of students and teachers.
Peaceful and orderly
THE Philippine National Police (PNP) declared the opening of classes as generally peaceful and orderly nationwide.
The PNP officer-in-charge, Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina, made the initial assessment on Monday afternoon as the National Operations Center in Camp Crame, Quezon City (Metro Manila), did not monitor any serious untoward incident.
“I am personally satisfied with the deployment of troops for police beat patrols and visibility operations in Manila’s University Belt, and in school premises elsewhere around the country,” Espina said.