Safer schools in Cebu urged

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Saturday, May 31, 2014

ALARMING was how Acting Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella described the condition of some classrooms in the city, with just days to go until classes resume.

“I don’t want to sound alarmist but this is the state of some of our school buildings,” he told Sun.Star Cebu after visiting the schools for the end of the Brigada Eskwela activities.

Three four-storey buildings in the Zapatera Elementary School caught Labella’s attention during his visit Saturday. He pointed out that the buildings, which house several classrooms, only have one staircase. These lack fire exits.


About 20 other schools also have the same conditions, Labella said, quoting a report submitted to his office. He asked the local school board to act immediately on the state of the school buildings, adding that safety features should be added right away.

For its part, the Cebu City Council wants the Commission on Higher Education (Ched) to exercise its regulatory power over private schools.

Necessary deskwork
NECESSARY DESKWORK. A carpenter fixes some desks in the Regino Mercado night high school on Panganiban St. in Cebu City. (Sun.Star Photo/Alan Tangcawan)

In a privilege speech during the regular session, Councilor Alvin Dizon said that Ched has Memorandum Circular Order No. 3, issued in 2012, which provides that schools consult its students about any plan to increase tuition.

117 to increase

Dizon pointed this out after learning that at least 117 private colleges and universities intend to increase their tuition or other fees by five to 12 percent for school year 2014-2015.

Regulating the school system remains a function of the National Government, but local governments play a role in improving public school facilities and improving general welfare.

An amount equivalent to one percent of the realty tax collections is supposed to compose the Special Education Fund, which the local school board uses to fix or build classrooms and other education-related purposes.

Several days ago, the school board in Cebu City said that fire exits will be constructed in different schools starting next week.

Labella said the emergency construction may be funded using the Special Education Fund (SEF), but if a larger amount is needed, the City is willing to use its calamity fund.

“It’s a matter of disaster preparedness…The safety of our students has always been highlighted by Mayor Michael Rama,” he added.

Safety of the students while in school, Labella said, should be emphasized. It was just a stroke of luck that when the 7.2-magnitude earthquake struck Bohol and Cebu around 8:12 a.m. last Oct. 15, 2013, it was a public holiday and the classrooms were empty.

All set

Interviewed separately, Department of Education (Deped) Cebu City Schools Division Superintendent Rhea Mar Angtud said the schools are all set for the opening of classes.

“We are ready for the opening of class on Monday,” she told Sun.Star Cebu.

Last-minute preparations like arranging the classroom furniture were being done Saturday and will continue today, Sunday.

Deped Central Visayas Director Carmelita Dulangon previously said that the agency expects some overcrowding on Monday, with the anticipated increase in the number of transferees after private schools announced they are raising their tuition this year.

Dulangon said they may hire teacher-volunteers to address the increase in the number of transferees.

Last January, after they finished the one-day nationwide early registration, Deped Education Supervisor Danilo Gudelosao of the Cebu City Schools Division said that the enrolment this year may be two percent higher than last school year’s, 171,000 students.

Also last week, Councilor Dizon said that some schools have failed to comply with Ched’s order on how tuition increases should be spent. Dizon chairs the council committee on the youth.

The Ched order states that 70 percent should be allocated for the salaries, wages, allowances and other benefits of both teaching and non-teaching personnel; 20 percent for the improvement, acquisition and modernization of school facilities; and 10 percent for the return on investment of higher education institutions.

Common violations, Dizon said, include the lack of genuine consultations among the students; failure to post in conspicuous places the notices of consultation; and lack of transparency in the breakdown of fee increases.

Full compliance

Dizon also said that some schools are not using the increase in school fees for the intended purpose.

“It is high time that Ched fully enforced its regulatory powers over schools and not only examine the mere compliance of schools on the requirement of consultation, but must assess how genuine and substantive those consultations are to conform with the standards of transparency, reasonableness and affordability,” he said.

Dizon pointed out that any tuition increase means an additional financial burden for any family.

The councilor, who is the vice chairperson of the committee on education, also moved to ask Ched to penalize schools that violate its memorandum order.

Lastly, Dizon asked the council to study the passage of an ordinance that will penalize schools that impose a “no permit, no exam” policy.

All of Dizon’s motions were approved by the council in a recent session. (RVC/PDF/Sun.Star Cebu)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on June 01, 2014.

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