New school year, same old problems

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Jossie Flororita, a teacher at the Epifanio de los Santos Elementary School, tidies up her classroom on Sunday.

SCHOOL starts today for about 24 million elementary and high school students as education officials grapple with the usual problems—lack of classrooms and teachers.

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Education Undersecretary Tonisito Umali said 23.9 million students were enrolled in kinder and high school this school year.

Only three million are in private schools.

The number of students this school year is higher than last year’s 20 million.

The Department of Education (DepEd) admitted that it lacks 19,579 classrooms. Officials expect to end the backlog by the end of the school year.

Umali said that last year, 48,802 classrooms were needed. The government built 30,000 classrooms, but it has yet to close the gap because the number of students continues to grow.

Umali said the department also needs 61,500 new teachers.

In Makati City, the class size of several high schools exceeded the maximum allowable number of 55 per classroom because of the influx of enrollees.

DepEd-Makati Superintendent Dr. Dominico Idanan said they have to implement the block system under which students are grouped into three shifts—7 a.m. to 12 p.m., 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.

“In compliance with the DepEd’s “no refusal” policy, we cannot turn away enrollees in these schools. Nevertheless, we have already mapped out a plan to implement the block system in addition to our open high school system to ensure that classes will run smoothly,” Idanan said.

To ensure the smooth opening of classes, Education Secretary Armin Luistro coordinated with the Philippine National Police and the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority.

Luistro said the DepEd Action Center is ready to accept queries or act on problems that students and parents may encounter during the first day of classes.

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) reminded parents to make sure their children bring umbrellas or raincoats when they go to school today.

In a radio interview, Gener Quitlong of Pagasa said a low pressure area that could enter the Philippine area of responsibility near Eastern Mindanao today that may spawn monsoon rains in the days to come.

Students were also advised to prepare their anti-dengue kits to ward off disease-carrying mosquitoes. Dengue is a common health concern during the rainy season.

The weather bureau may declare the official start of the rainy season today.

WITH A REPORT FROM RITCHIE HORARIO

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