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25.7 million students troop to schools

MANILA, Philippines (June 6 2011) - The Department of Education (DepEd) said it is ready for the opening of school year 2011-2012 today, with an expected 25.7 million students trooping to public and private pre-school, elementary and high schools nationwide.

Education Secretary Armin Luistro said his agency had made all the necessary preparations through Oplan Balik Eskwela (OBE) and Brigada Eskwela or National Schools Maintenance Week.

“Months before the opening of classes, the department has already taken steps to prepare all public elementary and high schools across the country. With this, we are optimistic that all our preparations are in place and we are looking forward to a smooth opening of classes,” said Luistro.

Nationwide, DepEd is expecting a total enrollment of 25.7 million students, 22.05 million or 86 percent of whom are in public schools and an estimated 3.65 million are in the private schools.

Of said total enrollees, 7.73 million are in secondary level, with 5.85 in public schools and 1.88 in private schools; and 15.47 million are in elementary, with 14.25 million in public schools and 1.22 million in private schools.

The department is also anticipating 1.93 million kindergarten pupils who will have their first taste of education under the universal kindergarten program.

The universal kindergarten program will be the initial phase of DepEd’s ambitious K (Kindergarten)+12 Basic Education Curriculum (BEC), which aims to add additional two years of senior high school to the current 10 year BEC with only six years of elementary and four years of high school.

Luistro also emphasized the department’s efforts to meet the Education For All (EFA) goal by improving the participation rate amongst students.”

“Making pre-school or kindergarten mandatory was a strategy in meeting the EFA goal, in view of studies that showed a child’s going through pre-school resulted in better learning competencies to prepare him or her to enter Grade 1,” he said.

“Our measures are not only geared towards the opening of classes but also to enjoin parents to send their children to school.”

DepEd reminds parents and school administrators that basic public education is free and that no collection of fees should be done in June and July, as per DepEd Order No. 41 series of 2011.

“The only way to achieve higher outcomes in these preparations is to engage all sectors of society. DepEd is very grateful for the overwhelming support of our stakeholders for our programs,” he added.

The recently concluded Brigada Eskwela mobilized the local communities, local government units, private sector and non-government organizations in the repair and construction of school buildings.

The OBE-Information and Action Center Task Force is currently operating at the DepEd Central Office to address common problems encountered during school opening, provide information and coordinate with government agencies, communities and other educational stakeholders.

OBE is an inter-agency task force composed of the Department of Health, Department of Trade and Industry, Department of Public Works and Highways, Department of the Interior and Local Government along with the Philippine National Police, Department of Transportation and Communication, Department of National Defense, Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical, Astronomical and Scientific Administration, Metro Manila Development Authority, Manila Waterworks and Sewerage System with its concessionaires Maynilad and Manila Water, and Meralco.

Police on heightened alert

The National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) also declared its readiness to secure 1,063 schools in Metro Manila during the opening of classes today.

“We are ready for any eventuality,” said NCRPO director Chief Superintendent Alan Purisima after personally conducting last-minute inspections of schools, bus and train stations and seaports.

Purisima said the 17,000-strong NCRPO remained on heightened alert since last week as he declared that deployment of personnel today would start at 4 a.m.

“Each school would be covered by uniformed policemen. We will see to it that the opening of classes would be smooth and orderly,” said Purisima in an interview.

At least 2,445 policemen and 3,305 force multipliers would be deployed in the vicinity of schools to deter crimes. The NCRPO would also establish parents’ desks in each school to extend assistance to students, especially those coming from the provinces.

The NCRPO will also roll out the Master Plan “Sandigan” that will give emphasis to the police security containment ring system in the vicinity of schools, bus and jeepney terminals, and other crime-prone areas.

In cooperation with the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), traffic enforcers will likewise be visible in said places to oversee the smooth flow of traffic and to ensure the safety and security of motorists, commuters and the general public.

Purisima also said that they will deploy the MASCO or motorized anti-street crime operatives and police mobile patrols to augment police presence. Added to the force are the bus marshals on public utility vehicles.

Good weather on opening day of classes

Meanwhile, good weather conditions will prevail over most parts of Luzon, including Metro Manila, today but the chief of the government meteorological agency advised the public, especially students, to bring their umbrellas as rains will likely persist in the afternoon.

Nathaniel Servando, acting administrator of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), said sunny weather will prevail over Metro Manila and most parts of Luzon in the morning due to a ridge of high pressure area and short-lived rains in the afternoon.

“We are now in the southwest monsoon season but experiencing a break, that’s why we may still experience short duration rainfall especially in the afternoon due to thunderstorms,” Servando told The STAR.

But he said the intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ) may bring rains over Mindanao and that a shallow low pressure area may affect the Visayas and Mindanao beginning tomorrow afternoon, and will move towards eastern Luzon by Thursday.

“The low pressure area has a slim chance of developing into a tropical depression,” Servando said.

PAGASA officials had said three or four tropical cyclones are expected to enter the country this month.