STA.FE, Leyte– Jessie Creado, an 8-year-old student, could not contain his excitement upon seeing the new school building in their village of San Miguelay, an interior village of this town.

Father Loreno Robles officiated the blessing of a new school building under the education department’s “Last Mile Schools” program in San Miguelay Elementary School in Sta, Fe, Leyte on November 23, 2023. (Photos by Ronald O. Reyes)

“I am happy that we have a new building. It feels good to attend my classes,” the Grade 2 pupil said.

Epimaco Densing III, the undersecretary of the country’s Department of Education (DepEd), who traveled to the village from the capital Manila, emphasized how a school building becomes a symbol of hope to reverse the declining trend of education in the Philippines during the inauguration and turn-over of P13.3-million worth of two new classrooms equipped with solar panels at San Miguelay Elementary School on November 23, 2023.

Education officials, villages, students, and teachers pose at the new school building under the education department’s “Last Mile Schools” program in San Miguelay Elementary School in Sta, Fe town in the central Philippines on November 23, 2023. (Photos by Ronald O. Reyes)

The said school became one of the recipients of the ‘Last Mile School Program’ of DepEd.
The program aims to solve the gaps in facilities of schools located in geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas and transform makeshift classrooms and other school infrastructures into standard ones.

“Having a building is important in the whole learning process. We must be very clear that the only way to solve the problem of poverty in our country is to make sure that every child gets to go to school,” said Densing III, who is in charge of the department’s school infrastructure and facilities.

Densing III disclosed that DepEd is short of 165,000 classrooms all over the country.
“It will take years to solve this crisis, and to be able to solve this, it should be all hands on deck. The support of the community, of parents, is also needed and not just the government alone solving this education crisis that we are facing,” he added.

Ricardo Abejo, a 43-year-old parent, said that the new school building was a big help to them, especially during the rainy season, when flooding also sets in in their village, as the school is located in a rice field and farm area.

“Before, we found so much inconvenience because the flood water reached the floor of the classrooms. This new building is much better because the design is elevated,” he said.
Abejo has a 10-year-old pupil at the said school.

“I am happy to see him inside his new school. Students usually get too lazy to attend their classes when there is a flood. Now, they always feel good,” he said.

“As a parent and village official, I am touched by the gesture of our government for providing our students a comfortable place to learn” he added.

He assured that he, along with other village officials, would help in maintaining the cleanliness and security of the new school building.

San Miguelay, which is some seven kilometers away from the town proper, has 74 students from Kinder to Grade 6.

Mariza Magan, the education superintendent of DepEd in Leyte province, who was accompanied by Sta. Fe District supervisor Ramil Bingco, lauded the school personnel and village officials for their services to the pupils despite the geographical isolation of their school.

“Your passion is the driving force behind the transformation we are witnessing today. To the students, the heartbeat of this institution, may this building inspire and empower our students to reach new heights in their lives,” she said.

“This new building will be an instrument with more convenience and peace to our learners, for education will pave the way for their personal growth and will help them achieve a bright future,” added the school head Clarissa Arejola.

Aside from poverty, family problems, lack of interest, and transfer of residence, the dearth of classrooms in remote villages also became the reasons why there are students who quit schools.

In Leyte Division alone, a total of 383,515 learners were enrolled before the start of the school year, but only 377,631 are currently attending classes.

“Let us look into our own municipality if there are children and teens who have not completed basic education,” Magan said. (RONALD O. REYES)