ABOUT 24 million elementary and high school students march to their classrooms today amid fears of earthquakes, warnings against thunderstorms and the usual school opening blues.
The Department of Education (DepEd), Philippine National Police (PNP), Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and local government units have rolled out their respective programs to ensure that the opening of classes will be smooth and crime-free.
The weather bureau said thunderstorms can be expected in Luzon and the Visayas beginning June 1, thus, students should always bring umbrellas or raincoats. It added that afternoon or evening rain can be intense and may trigger flashfloods.
Weather forecasters warned students to prepare for strong rains since the country has started the transition from the dry to wet season.
Education Secretary Armin Luistro said there was no significant change in the number of enrollees this year. According to him, 2.2 million children will start kindergarten, 82 percent of them in public schools. In the elementary level, 92 percent of the 14.5 million students will report to public schools while in high school, 81 percent of the 7.3 million enrolees will also go to public schools.
Classroom shortage, lack of teachers and school facilities and other problems will still be felt but only in a few areas, DepEd said.
To protect students, the PNP will deploy thousands of policemen in schools and surrounding areas, while the Education department had set up public assistance desks to assist late enrolees and address concerns of parents and students.
The MMDA will also deploy 800 of its personnel to man traffic and clear obstructions near schools.
As of Saturday, the DepEd Action Center had received more than 100 complaints and inquiries.
In Malacañang, Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. called on citizens and communities to work together to ensure the smooth and orderly opening of classes.
Because the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) earlier warned that a 7.2 magnitude earthquake may hit Metro Manila, Coloma said DepEd, National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council and other concerned government agencies will continue to work with various local government units to ensure stability of infrastructures, especially school buildings, located near the West Valley Fault (WVF).
The government will focus on the Pedro Diaz High School in Muntinlupa City (Metro Manila), which sits on the fault. The other schools in Metro Manila near the fault line are Barangka Elementary School in Marikina, Tibagan Elementary School in Makati City, Anne Claire Montessori in Taguig City and Alabang Elementary School in Muntinlupa City.
Also near the WVF is Sitio Karahume Elementary School in Bulacan province, north f Manila.
Coloma said President Benigno Aquino 3rd has ordered all agencies to undertake necessary preparations to ensure the opening of classes will be safe, orderly and peaceful.
Those who need to contact the DepEd action center may call 633-1663; 633-7251, 633-2363, 633-1942 or 638-7531.