STUDENT EXPLOSION. Bulging number of students at Camarines Sur National High School in Naga City, one of the oldest and biggest secondary schools in the Bicol Region with more than 11,000 enrollees. PHOTO COURTESY OF BRGY PENAFRANCIA PUNONG BARANGAY BOBOY SIERRA
LEGAZPI CITY--- Students in public schools in Bicol are packed like sardines due to classroom shortage caused by the failure of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to finish off the targeted construction of 2,535 classrooms in Bicol worth P8,702,299,330.92.
Edwin A. Bermal, assistant chief of DPWH maintenance division, admitted during a press conference held at the regional office of the Department of Education here that the construction of public school classrooms in Bicol was affected by the “Build, Build, Build” program of the government.
Based on the report of the Department of Education Bicol regional office, only 22 percent, or 558 of the 2,535 classrooms allocated for construction in Bicol were so far completed as of May 2019. This means 1,745 more classrooms are seeing completion this year.
“The construction of school buildings was affected by the Build, Build, Build project of the administration but we are aiming and expediting to complete the construction before the end of this year,” a DPWH official said who added that another reason why constructions were delayed was that the budget allocated was released only in the fourth quarter of 2018.
It was not clearly explained in the report, though, why the government’s Build, Build, Build program caused the delay in construction.
Aside from the construction of new school buildings, the government also allotted P391,000,000 for classroom repairs for 2019.
At least 1,828,694 students thronged to public schools and 169,401 in private schools throughout the Bicol region during the opening of classes last Monday.
At Daraga National High School alone, about 70 to 80 students were packed in classrooms that were ideally built for maximum of 40 students per classroom.
DepEd Regional Director Gilbert Sadsad noted an increase of 2.28 percent over last year’s enrolment in private schools due to transfers to public schools, thereby causing classroom backlogs in recipient public schools.
Sadsad said that the ideal ratio for students per classroom is 1 to 40 during his time when he was school principal in far flung barangays. The ratio has now doubled to 1 to 80.
Schools in urban centers, he said, traditionally have a 1 to 50 ratio compared to 1 to 40 in barangay high schools. He admitted further that classroom shortage is a perennial problem of the Department of Education which is now being gradually addressed.
Presently, there are 58,374 classrooms available in Bicol: 41,787 for elementary, 16,587 for secondary and 3,589 for senior high school.
Normal student classroom ratio varies by grade level. For senior high school, the ratio is 1/40 while for junior high school it is 1/35 and 1/30 for elementary school.
In actual situations, however, this is not the case, as it is 1/70 in Grade 8 (junior high school) in Daraga National High School alone.
Marites Amor, Grade 8 teacher, told Bicol Mail that she’s handling 70 students in her classroom.
Dr. Gundelina B. Obias, Principal III of Daraga National High School said the ratio in her school could rise to as much as 1/80 per classroom, which indicates worse case of classroom shortage.
She said that the shortage in her school is 63 classrooms vis-à-vis its total population of 7,500 students.
Because of the classroom shortage, Obias said they are implementing shifting of classes daily. For first shift, from 6:15 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. for Grades 7,9 and 12, and for second shift, from 12:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. for Grades 8, 10 and 11.
Aside from classrooms, the school principal at Daraga National High School said they are also in need of 12 more classroom teachers.
Meanwhile, Engr. Bermal of the DPWH maintenance division, said they were committed to finish the classrooms this year.
“We assure the public that the 2,535 classrooms will be completed this year. We’ve just encountered some delay because of revision of plans, sometimes lack of materials, and even change in location of the classrooms but rest assured it will be completed.” he said in an interview.