BRIGADA Eskwela is the annual program of the Department of Education (DepEd) to prepare the nation’s schools for the opening of the school year in June. Built around the concept of shared community responsibility, it prepares the nation’s schoolrooms, facilities, and grounds, with the help of the people of the community, including business and civic groups. They join in a week of actual physical work, repairing windows, painting walls, making every effort to make the surroundings conducive to learning by the community’s children.
In Marawi this month and the next, the Brigada Eskwela concept will be put to use but on an unprecedented scale.
Marawi may be part of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), which has its own regional secretary of education, but in the wake of the massive destruction it suffered in the last five months, the national Department of Education will be leading a program of repair and restoration for all that was destroyed in Marawi’s schools during the fighting between government forces and the Maute group.
The DepEd recovery plan – “Brigada Eskwela sa Marawi” – will focus on the physical repair of the battered school buildings. Donor institutions are welcome to “adopt” a damaged school.
“We are inviting the whole country,” Secretary Leonor Briones said. “It will be a national Brigada and all are invited to participate.” She said it needs donations of construction materials such as cement, lumber, paint, galvanized iron, and tools. And it needs volunteers to help do the work as in the usual Brigada Eskwela projects but on a much larger scale.
Aside from the damage to the schools, there is danger of improvised explosive devices that may have been left by the rebels and their Islamic State cohorts in the buildings where they made their last stand. The danger posed by these “booby traps” had held back the advancing troops and they continue to pose a danger to all of those now involved in cleaning up in Marawi.
As it assesses the physical damage to the schools, Secretary Briones said, the DepEd is also considering other immediate needs, such as psycho-social debriefing for teachers and students. A first batch of teachers attended a Psychological First Aid session held in Cagayan de Oro City, with funds committed by President Duterte.
The rehabilitation of Marawi is now underway on so many fronts, and the restoration of the school system is of utmost importance. Thousands of students were able to shift to other schools in Region 10, and in other regions of the country. But the people of Marawi are now returning to their homes and when their children return to their schools, these should be safe from all possible danger and fully restored as part of the rehabilitation of Marawi City.