WE are now in the middle of preparations for the opening of School Year 2019-2020. The Department of Education (DepEd) expects 27,817,737 students to start attending classes in the nation’s schools, from Kindergarten to Grade 12, when the school year begins on Monday, June 3.
This is 2.95 percent more than last school year’s total 27,018,509 learners. New entrants, especially in kindergarten, were made to register as early as last January and February, so as to minimize the crush in the regular registration next month.
The DepEd also held its annual pre-school year clean-up progam “Brigada Eskwela,” with various community organizations joining parents of schoolchildren in cleaning up classrooms that have not been used since the end of the previous school year last April 5.
But there is one problem faced by the nation’s schools every year – there is bound to be a shortage of classrooms in some parts of the country due to the natural increase in population. Funds for additional classrooms have been provided in the national budget, DepEd Secretary Leonor Briones said, but the actual work of building the classrooms is in the hands of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).
By the end of June, DepEd Undersecretary Alain del Pascua said, 12,752 new classrooms should have been completed. But the election ban on public works projects during the campaign period may have affected the progress of the work. So we may have the perennial problem of some classes having to meet under trees or some schools having two to three separate schedules of classes.
This year, classroom building is competing with so many other projects assigned to the DPWH which is in the middle of “Build, Build, Build.” This involves the construction of so many roads and bridges, airports and seaports, and government buildings. We hope, along with the officials of DepEd, that the DPWH has assigned top priority to classrooms these last few months.
The Constitution, in Article IV, Section 5(5) provides: “The state shall assign the highest budgetary priority to education and ensure that teaching will attract and retain its rightful share of the best available talents through adequate remuneration and other means of job satisfaction and fulfillment.” This provision, it should be noted, involves adequacy both in classroom space and teachers’ pay.
We are confident that the DepEd is fully prepared for the opening of the new school year. Any unexpected problems should be met with the highest priority in government attention and funds.