At the Buli Elementary School in Muntinlupa City, parents and guardians could be seen gathered outside the school premises on Monday, the first day of classes for school year 2015-2016.
One of their reasons for camping out? So they could easily help faculty in case of an emergency, particularly earthquake, as the school is one of Metro Manila structures sitting atop the West Valley Fault.
“’Di bale na pong nasa labas kami nagbabantay ng buong araw para madali kami makasaklolo sa mga anak pag may nangyari,” said Jane Yalong, parent of a Grade 2 pupil.
The school started its classes a week later than the June 1 scheduled by the Department of Education to make time for preparations in case of a strong earthquake. From 1,700 last year, its student population is down to 1,400 this year — a decrease attributed by its principal, Manuela Ofalla, to some parents’ fear for their child’s safety.
Prior to the declaration of PHIVOLCS that Buli Elementary School is located on top of a fault, the school has seven buildings — three of which were declared unsafe, including one that was newly renovated. A red arrow, marked by PHIVOLCS, means this building should be vacated. This left only four buildings that can be used for classes.
Ofalla said some students will have to do their group activities online due to lack of space.
“Sa garden na kami magfa-flag ceremony. Damay din kasi ang bagong covered court sa dinaanan ng West Valley Fault. Bagong tayo pa naman ang covered court at stage,” she said.
This also means that all available spaces must be utilized for something else — the principal’s office, school clinic and registrars office, for example, are now used as economics rooms.
Given the challenges, teachers and parents work hand in hand to beef up the students’ alertness and preparedness to respond should the “Big One” occurs.
Earthquake drills will be done twice a week for two consecutive months to instill the culture of awareness and preparedness among students.
On Monday morning, Grade 6 students had an earthquake drill inside their classroom. Upon the teacher’s signal, everyone went under the table to duck, cover and hold. A student was assigned to lead the pack for evacuation to the nearest exit gate. Students are required to bring improvised head gear made out of doormats.
The school administration is hopeful that the Department of Education will allocate additional budget for the renovation and retrofitting of the remaining old school buildings. They will also be needing the help of the local government of Muntinlupa for the construction of a new school building.
Though faced with fear, the school community believes that life and learning must go on, with the students saying they will continue to empower themselves with knowledge to better prepare them in the future. —KBK, GMA News
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