This column is dedicated to the men and women who gave a week of their time to prepare the schools for June opening – the DepEd teachers, parents and volunteer workers and stakeholders.
Brigada Eskwela, also known as the “Bayanihan Para sa Paaralan (Working Together for Schools)” gathers together all of the people above for a week-long activity of cleaning, repairing, constructing, painting and other activities to prepare the school for the next school year. They worked under theme, “Tayo para sa Kalinisan, Kaligtasan at Kahandaan ng Ating mga Paaralan(Stand for the Cleanliness, Safety, and Preparedness of our Schools).”
Partners from the private sector donate cash and resources to the cause while partner agencies such as the PNP, BFP and DOH send their employees to schools to help. They take part in cementing pathways, painting walls, repairing blackboards and chairs, trimming the trees, draining the canals and even in declogging the toilets and bathrooms.
Through the initiative of the school heads, private partners are given the opportunity to contribute resources for the effort. And in honor of their goodwill, private partners are offered tax incentives of up to 150%. Local government units and community members mostly provide manpower and volunteer services during this week-long activity.
Throughout the years, the spirit of volunteerism in Brigada Eskwela has reached more people in the communities. In 2007 alone, it has generated more than P2.5 billion worth of support-in-kind and countless volunteer man-hours.
Lilio Tuares Carreon Jr. writes: Brigada Eskwela was borne out of the need to address the challenges of public school education in the Philippines. It started with the simple mission of cleaning up and beautifying public schools to prepare for the opening of classes. But by allowing everyone to contribute, big or small, to this worthy endeavor, it has also opened multiple doors for learning and reflection.
From the outside, Brigada Eskwela might only count as one of DepEd’s mandates for public schools, a project that generates funds to beautify the campus. But scratching the surface will reveal an effective model of public-private partnership that creates ripples of impact among the different sectors of society by revolutionizing the Filipino trait of bayanihan.
It shows that volunteerism is still abundant in our country, and that there are a lot of people who are willing to cooperate with the government’s worthwhile endeavors if given the chance.
Brigada Eskwela has also become the training ground of student leaders, particularly those in the Supreme Student Government (SSG).
One such student leader, according to Carreon, is Russel de Guzman.
De Guzman said of his experience, “When I was in elementary, I would do it because it was a requirement for officers and I had nothing to do during the summer vacation. But as I kept on doing it every year, I realized it was also my responsibility to help.”
De Guzman explained that it was a challenge for both public school teachers and students to put up with blackboards that have become too rough to write on, chairs with broken armrests or uneven legs, and electric fans that do not work.
“It can really make you lose focus on the lesson sometimes,” he said.
He knew there is a need to alleviate these challenges and understood that as a student, he has a part to play. By being a volunteer in Brigada Eskwela, he saw that no effort is too small to make a difference.
“Everyone works from 8 am to 5 pm with very little supervision from the officers of the student government. We all follow the schedule prescribed since day one,” De Guzman explained.
“More and more people from different sectors of the society extend help to our school every year,” De Guzman affirmed.
Critics of the program often say that local governments should be the one to fund the maintenance of public schools, and schools should not have to generate resources from private companies or individuals.
In fact, during their solicitations around the community, De Guzman’s group received mixed reactions. Some questioned the need to raise funds for a project that should be funded by the government, while others willingly donated money or materials upon learning of Brigada Eskwela‘s purpose.
“The highest donation from a single individual was P1,000. The lowest was 25 centavos. We see any amount as a big help,” De Guzman said.
As for the teachers, they spared their one-week summer time to do join the Brigada although it’s voluntary in nature. Very soon, they will also be burdened further by their usual works: writing their daily lesson logs, making power point presentation lessons, registering their students via online, making action plans and action research proposals, Saturday training for student contestants, making class reports, administering tests with table of specifications, doing item analysis after each periodical tests, computing grades, participating in community services, attending seminars, trainings and workshops, demonstration teachings, serving as guidance counselors to wayward students, making RPMS and IPCRFs, etc. etc.
The list is long, fellas.
As for the Brigada Eskwela in Ilocos Sur, some of those most benefited are more than 20 schools that served as billeting and stand-by billeting schools in the last Palarong Pambansa hosted by the province.
Governor Ryan Luis Singson’s brigade made all the necessary minor and major repairs of roofs, ceilings, toilets, pathways and walls. There were also paintings done. His brigade also repaired the electrical connections. Although there are still works yet to be completed, the DepEd is one with the parents, students and teachers in expressing their appreciation of the repairs done by the provincial government.
After all, Governor Ryan is called a working governor every Ilocos Surian should be proud of.
Thank you very much, governor; may all the younger governors in the country be as idealistic and as industrious as you.
As for the other Brigada stakeholders, may your tribe increase. Thank you for sharing your time, efforts and money.