MANILA — Budget Secretary Florencio Abad has announced the budget approval and scheduled release of P7.3 billion for building new classrooms across the nation as part of the DepEd’s (Department of Education) bid to improve basic educational facilities and to address the continued problem of classroom shortage.
No Classroom Shortage?
Despite DepEd’s announcement that this problem has already been ‘solved’, plenty of pupils and students in public schools will still be holding classes under the trees or sharing classrooms with other grade/year levels this school year.
DepEd Assistant Secretary Tonisito Umali provides a new definition to ‘classroom shortage’.
According to Umali, if a school does not have space to expand and build classrooms, then it is not a classroom shortage.
It wouldn’t matter if the students would have to make do with classes under the trees because, technically, even with money, there are no more areas to build classrooms for that school.
The Malacañang Palace was quick to come to Umali’s defense, with Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma telling radio dzRB that the Aquino administration has inherited from Arroyo a classroom backlog of 66,800. Also, natural calamities have added to the problem.
More Than 7,100 Classrooms
The recently approved budget release will be coursed through the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), the agency tasked to build the additional classrooms across the country. As many as 7,136 classrooms will be built on 4,007 sites, with the largest allocation set in Bicol for the construction of 1,111 classrooms amounting to a total of P1.1 billion.
Region 12 ranks next, with General Santos City and the provinces of South Cotabato, Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, and Sarangani sharing P960.8 million while Region 7 will receive P753.9 million allocated to 710 classrooms.
Abad adds that the budget release coincides with the government’s commitment to accommodate the continued enrollment growth each year. In so doing, the students would have a better chance at learning while the teachers would have an easier time.
He also said the government always allocates the largest budget chunk towards the improvement of the education system, something that was also done for this year’s budget.
Many teachers are bound to disagree with the last statement, however, especially with the recent Malacañang announcement that they, and the rest of the government’s employees, won’t be receiving any salary increase this year, citing budget constraints.
P1 Billion Released for ‘Yolanda’-hit Schools
President Aquino also ordered the release of P1 billion for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of schools hit by Super Typhoon Yolanda last November 2013.
The money will be distributed among 35 state universities and colleges (SUCs). These SUCs are spread across 8 regions: Caraga, Northern Mindanao, the Zamboanga peninsula, the entire Visayas (3 regions), Mindoro-Marinduque-Romblon-Palawan, and Cagayan Valley.
Of the 35 SUCs, 19 will receive a bigger portion of the budget because these were severely hit by the super typhoon.
Pasig City Rep. Roman Romulo, Chair of the House Committee on Higher and Technical Education, said the money would have to be released quickly, especially to the 19 SUCs who really need to have their facilities rebuilt the quickest way possible especially because these schools cater to over 157,000 students.