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Rains, floods recall plans to move school opening

THE “habagat” is the pattern of winds blowing at this time of the year from the southwest. Heavy with water vapor evaporating from equatorial seas to the southwest, it cools as it moves north and rises over land, unloading huge volumes of rain water.

This week, the “habagat,” intensified by tropical storm “Henry” northeast of Luzon, dumped its rains on southwestern Luzon, particularly Batangas, Rizal, Bataan, Zambales, Metro Manila, and Bulacan. Classes were suspended in most schools in the area, and office work came to a stop, as roads got flooded and students as well as employees were stranded. After “Henry” left, “Inday” came in, flooding many areas in 24 Luzon and Visayas provinces.

The rainy season in many parts of the country begins at about this time of the year – about June and July – prompting many officials over the years to propose that the opening of the school year be moved to August or September. According to the Philippine Association of State Universities and Colleges, 34 of these schools, including the University of the Philippines, have already moved their school opening to August, but 69 remain with the old schedule.

Last year, attempts to move school opening were renewed, with Sen. Francis Escudero filing Senate Bill 1432 requiring all public and private schools to begin the school year on the second Monday of August or later, but no later than the second Monday of September. In the House of Representatives, Rizal Rep. Michael John Duavit filed House Bill 5802. He also noted that the academic calendar in many countries, including the United States, begins in September.

Nothing came of the new effort to move the opening of schools to a later date, probably because of the expense involved in improving our school buildings so students would not suffer from such summer ailments as sore eyes, stomach ache, and dengue. Perhaps our officials would rather have them face the dangers of leptospirosis, coughing and other lung ailments, from exposure to rains and floods.

Soon enough, the rains and storms will stop and the “habagat” will give way to the “amihan,” where cool and dry air originating over Siberia, Mongolia, and northern China will come to us from the northeast in late September and early October. By then, our current problems over cancelled classes will have been forgotten.

But the idea of moving school opening to a later date, as the UP and many other schools have already done, must not be completely set aside. If all it needs is funding for better classrooms, it is an idea worth considering for the sake of our suffering schoolchildren wading in floodwaters and missing several days of school.