• Victims of Yolanda graduate

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    While the road to recovery stretches on for the survivors of Super Typhoon Yolanda in Central Visayas, public school students in their final year of elementary and high school will take a moment to stand tall and march this summer to graduate despite the odds.

    A total of 76,121 public school students from Yolanda ­ravaged Eastern Visayas will receive their diplomas this week, according to data obtained by The Manila Times from the Region 8 office of the Department of Education (DepEd).

    Education Secretary Armin Luistro said public elementary and high school students in Yolanda ­hit areas are expected to hold their graduation ceremonies either today or Friday.

    DepEd Region 8 Director Luisa Yu, meanwhile, told The Manila Times that graduation ceremonies in her region will be “very simple yet meaningful.” The rites aim to reflect the students’ nationalism, excellence and resilience in the face of adversity.

    “Region 8 specifically adheres [to DepEd Order No. 9, series of 2014], which necessitates holding the usual commencement exercises using austerity measures.

    Graduates will only wear their school uniform on graduation day [instead of the customary toga],” she said.

    In the lead up to the big day, the students had to deal with making up for lost school days, while teachers had to contend with piecing together lost school records.

    According to DepEd, there are 7,300 students, or about 10 percent whose school records went missing because of the storm surge.

    Of the number of graduating students, Yu said 46,679 will complete their elementary education, while the remaining 29,442 are high school students from the provinces of Eastern Samar, Samar, Leyte, and the cities of Ormoc and Tacloban, which were most affected by the typhoon.

    Longer days and weeks
    There are only 20 buffer days set by the DepEd per school year in case of class suspensions due to unforeseen circumstances.

    Students in Central Visayas lost over a month of school days after the November 8 super typhoon hit, resulting in the need for makeup classes to complete graduation requirements.

    “Approximately 15 to 20 Saturdays were used to complete the 201 calendar days for school year 2013­2014 and the competencies learners had to master in their specific grade/year level,” Yu said.

    She also noted that most schools in the region held half­day shifting of classes because of the limited number of classrooms which could still be used, as most structures incurred extensive damage.

    According to Myrlinda Tulosa, a 16­year old survivor now in her third year of high school, “Kahit mahirap dahil lahat kami nasalanta ng bagyo, nagpilit kaming pumasok pa din sa eskwela noong December 6, at nagpatuloy hanggang mag­ Christmas break. Matapos ay nagsimula ulit ng pasukan ng January 4.

    [While it was hard to go back to school because we were all affected by the typhoon, we still made an effort to return to class on December 6 until the Christmas break, and resumed again on January 4].”

    Resourceful learning tools
    Yu said modules and instructional materials also had to be reproduced on a staggered basis due to lack of funds.

    “Some non­government organizations supported the division offices in securing modules by sourcing out or gathering from websites to be reproduced for classroom use,” she said.

    Yu also credited private partners and the DepEd Central Office for providing financial aid that repaired partially damaged classrooms and built temporary learning spaces.

    Thankful for the influx of aid that came in after the typhoon, the regional director said Yolanda “left a devastation of epic proportions but it also undoubtedly left us countless lessons that can help us face uncertainties in life in the future.”

    “The most outstanding lesson of which is that everything in this world is temporary and that we should all try to carry out our endeavors to the best of our abilities. Those of us who survived Yolanda continue to show the world we are not only good at rising from the debris; that our resilience transcends to every struggle we encounter; and that we become more tempered, resolute, and wiser as a result of these attacks,” she said.

    For Gerylyn Busa Amodia, who ranked sixth in the graduating class of Pedro E. Candido Memorial National High School, Barangay Carmen, Hernani, Eastern Samar,pride and strength were the most important lessons she learned while rebuilding their lives after the storm and working towards graduation.

    “Now, I am much stronger, more resilient and ready to face more complex challenges in the future,” said Amodia, who lost four family members to the stormsurge, as well as their home.

    Elementary graduating student Gwyneth Baylon said she is lucky to graduate.

    “All the pupils in Rizal Central School aimed to graduate ­­ most especially me! I feel lucky to be graduating, unlike other students who could not longer go back to school after the storm.

    Even if Yolanda destroyed everything I had, I didn’t allow it to destroy my dream.”

    DepEd data indicated that some 1,487 public schools in Eastern Visayas were partially damaged or totally destroyed by Typhoon Yolanda, while 2,800 classrooms need to be replaced and 13,000 require repairs.

    Despite the saddening statistics, the students, teachers, and regional director of DepEd in Central Visayas remain optimistic that no single storm—not even the strength of Yolanda—should ever hinder a child’s right to education.

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