Brigada Eskwela 2017 kicks off with increased community responsibility, participation for quality basic education

May 16, 2017

PASIG CITY, May 16, 2017 – The national kick-off ceremony of Brigada Eskwela 2017, hosted by the Department of Education (DepEd) Region 7 in the province of Cebu, marked the strengthening of existing programs and partnerships that aim to improve the learning condition and environment for students for school year 2017-2018. With the theme Isang DepEd, Isang Pamayanan, Isang Bayanihan, Para sa Handa at Ligtas na Paaralan, the week-long activity also highlighted the crucial role of communities in ensuring that quality basic education reaches all potential learners.
Assistant Secretary for Legislative Liaison and External Partnership Service (EPS), Atty. Tonisito M.C. Umali, reported significant figures since the conception of Brigada. When it started as a voluntary activity of DepEd in 2003, only about 12,000 schools, or 30 percent of the total school population, joined. In just a year, the number of schools that voluntarily participated increased to about 60,000 nationwide.
According to Umali, "If you will put some value, kung bibigyan ng katumabs yung halaga ang binigay na oras ng ating mga volunteers, yung mga pintura, pako, gamit panglinis, last year we have more or less P7.2 billion. Compare this to 2015, humigit kumulang na apat na bilyong piso. Sa dami naman ng volunteers, last year 2016, tayo po ay mayroong humigit kumulang 11.2 billion volunteers, compare this to 2015 where we had more or less 8.8 million volunteers."
DepEd also tasked schools to implement the anti-illegal drug use campaign and the Brigada Eskwela Plus, the distribution of pencils collected under the One Million Lapis Campaign, and the opening of the Alternative Learning System (ALS) registration desk.
Exceeding expectation
As early as 11 in the morning of the national kick-off, the number of ALS registrants from communities in Cebu City has exceeded the target of 1,000 --- around 1,614 potential learners have already indicated their interest to continue learning outside formal instruction.  The ALS registration desk also saw 884 volunteers since its opening at six in the morning.
Emphasizing the necessity to expand the reach of ALS, Education Secretary Leonor Magtolis Briones pointed out, "You'll never know how it is not to be able to read all those signs, to buy without knowing how to count, to care for your sick children but not know how to read the medication. All of you are in school but not all are in school."
The Secretary further noted that with the huge budget allotted by the President and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), DepEd will strive to ensure that no learner will be left behind and that ALS volunteer teachers will not have to wait for two years to receive their due compensation.
Year-long community effort
Recognizing the need to continuously engage community participation in the achievement of quality basic education, the Education chief underscored the importance of Brigada Eskwela Plus, "Ang Brigada hindi lang dapat week-long, dapat year-long para sa kaligtasan at kapakanan ng ating mga mag-aaral."
The implementation of Brigada Eskwela Plus will focus on three main activities: 1) School maintenance activities throughout the school year; 2) Community-led effort to improve student participation and reduce drop-outs, or enroll in ALS; 3) Community-led effort to improve student performance.
Anti-drug awareness campaign
Reinforcing its commitment to the fight against the many dangers of drug abuse, the Department mandated the strengthening of the National Drug Education Program (NDEP) through the implementation of measures that aim to protect learners, such as Barkada Kontra Droga, intensified information dissemination, PTA-community involvement, and mobilization of scout leaders.
Education partners
Secretary Briones as well expressed her gratitude to local government units (LGUs), civic organizations, and private partners, such as Australian Aid, for helping the Department reach and teach more learners, "Education is not the business of DepEd alone, it is the responsibility of our community, it's our national responsibility."
Briones and Umali graced the ceremony at the Ramon Duterte Memorial National High School and Guadalupe Elementary School with Assistant Secretary for Legal Affairs, Atty. Josephine G. Maribojoc; Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs Service (PAS) and Alternative Learning System (ALS), Miss G.H. S. Ambat; EPS Director Margarita Consolacion Ballesteros. The national officials were welcomed by Region 7 Regional Director-OIC Julieta Jeruta, Ph.D., Cebu City Deputy Mayor Joy Augustus Young , Mr. James Canoy for Governor Hilario Davide III, Negros Island Region (NIR) RD Gilbert Sadsad, Region 6 RD Gemma Ledesma, Region 8 RD Ramir Uytico and the Region 7 Schools Division Superintendents (SDS).