P46.24 B needed to build 3,000 ‘last mile’ schools
Janvic Mateo (The Philippine Star) - July 25, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Education (DepEd) has requested over P46 billion for the construction of buildings in some 3,000 public schools that still fail to meet the basic standards set by the government.

Education Undersecretary for administration Alain Del Pascua said they have requested a budget of P46.24 billion for 2020 as part of the agency’s “last mile schools” program, which seeks to provide support for marginalized schools mainly located in isolated and disadvantaged areas.

“Last mile schools” are those that have fewer than four classrooms, with makeshift or non-standard rooms, without electricity, have not been allocated funds for repairs or construction for the last four years and have travel distance of more than one hour from the town center.

They also include those that have multigrade classes or rooms, with fewer than five teachers, have a student population of less than 100, and with more than 75 percent of learners coming from indigenous peoples’ groups.

The budget will be used to construct school buildings in around 3,000 “last mile” schools in various parts of the country.

Pascua said they may even double the budget request in 2021, noting that 7,144 public schools have so far been identified in the program.

“It’s a two-year program. We will be concentrating on 2020 and 2021, and the two-year program will focus first on facilities, then on infrastructure,” he said in a press conference last week.

“We will first build the schools. After one year, we will introduce the content – furniture, textbooks, computers, electricity,” he added.

The program seeks to transform these schools to make them at par with those in town or city centers.

Education Secretary Leonor Briones said they rolled out the program to further improve access and quality of education in the country.

In an earlier memorandum, Briones said the DepEd would work with various agencies to address the gaps and provide support, including proper facilities such as classrooms, standard school furniture, solar panels for those without access to electricity, and a two-story access and climate change emergency storage and shelter.

The education chief added that the DepEd would also provide adequate teaching and learning materials, additional teachers, and training and funds for programs such as Gulayan sa Paaralan and School Inside a Garden.

The secretary also vowed to provide the “last mile” schools with computer packages, connect them to the DepEd network and internet, and get access to learning and administrative systems.

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