THE Department of Education (DepEd) kicked off on Monday the Brigada Eskwela campaign to prepare schools for the opening of classes on August 22.

After two years without conducting the Brigada Eskwela for on-site school repairs and reconstruction, DepEd asked support from the national government and other sectors to help in sprucing up and repairing schools, especially those that were damaged by Typhoon "Odette" last December and the recent earthquake in Abra.

During the Brigada Eskwela kick-off at the Imus Pilot Elementary School in Imus, Cavite, Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Duterte-Carpio reported that more than P18 billion is needed to address the devastation from calamities sustained by the education sector in the past two years.

That does not include the P1.4 billion needed to fix and rebuild classrooms damaged by the recent earthquake.

"Right now, we are looking at temporary learning spaces but with the budget that we have, it might not be enough. We will be asking the DBM (Department of Budget and Management) for additional funding for quick interventions in affected schools," DepEd spokesman Michael Poa said in a media briefing.

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Education Undersecretary for Legislative Affairs and International Cooperation Gerard Chan said that aside from repairing school facilities and equipment through Brigada Eskwela, the DepEd also welcomes private sector and local government unit partnerships.

The department has also launched Brigada Eskwela Plus, which aims to boost enrollment, reduce dropout rates and encourage participation in DepEd programs, and Brigada Pagbasa, which aims to provide after-school literacy activities for learners, especially those in Kindergarten to Grade 4.

"The collaboration between the parents, the teachers, local governments, and the entire community on Brigada Eskwela opens deeper and meaningful collaborations even until after the school year closes," Duterte-Carpio said.

Chan noted that DepEd will continue to fund the Education Service Contracting (ESC) and Senior High School Voucher Program (SHS VP) so it can subsidize public school students enrolled in private schools.

"Although DepEd does not have funding support for our private schools for face-to-face classes, it continues to provide subsidies for expanded access for junior and senior high schools through ESC and SHS VP," he said.

A P39.33 billion allocation has been approved in the DepEd's proposed budget for 2023 for SHS VP and P11.05 billion for ESC, Chan said.

A record 11.66 million students have enrolled for this school year as of August 1.

Poa said the DepEd could still achieve its enrollment goal of 28.6 million because of the promising turnout.