DepEd Opens Classes in Zamboanga, Offers Psychosocial Intervention for Students

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After more than two weeks of school suspension due to ongoing skirmishes between government forces and members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), 149 schools in Zamboanga City resume classes today.

Upon the recommendation of Zamboanga City’s Crisis Management Committee (CMC), 126 elementary schools and 23 secondary schools in non-affected areas are able to open today.

As part of preparing students for the formal lessons, the Department of Education (DepEd) has prepared different activities for the pupils during the first few days of their return. Each school is conducting psychological first aid (PFA) for students to reduce initial distress caused by the conflict.

DepEd Undersecretary for Regional Operations Rizalino Rivera, who is at Zamboanga to oversee the re-opening, says the classes will not be “regular” the first few days. “Learner-centered tayo sa DepEd. Kung mag-formal (classes), hindi papasok yun (sa ulo nila) kasi yung mga bata, and iba diyan tuliro pa. So kailangan, i-ease in natin sila sa regular learning modes.” (DepEd is learner-centered. If we start formal classes, they won’t understand anything because some of these kids are still in shock. We need to ease them into the regular learning modes.)

Rivera adds that it is also an opportunity to account for the students’ whereabouts. “Kailangan natin malaman kung nasaan ba yung mga bata, lalu na yung nasa evacuation centers.” (We need to know where the children are, especially those in evacuation centers.)

DepEd, together with partner agencies such as the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the Department of Health (DOH), has also debriefed and provided psychosocial interventions for the teachers, which aims to relieve the educators of the stress caused by the conflict and to enable them to effectively resume their teaching duties.

Of the schools that opened today, 16 remain as evacuation centers, adopting the 50-50 system – half the school remains as evacuation center while the other half is designated as an area for students’ learning.

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