SOME 11 of 66 far-flung schools in Central Visayas could be prioritized by the Department of Education (DepEd) under its Last Mile Schools Program, which could get its share of P1.5 billion from the proposed General Appropriations Act (GAA) for 2020.
The Senate version of the national budget added P6.5 billion to the P673 billion budget proposed by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) for the education sector, including state universities and colleges, Commission on Higher Education and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.
If approved, the additional budget would be spent for the restoration of the budget for the Senior High School Voucher Program (P4.5 million) and the Last Mile Schools Program.
Last mile schools are those “with less than four classrooms, usually makeshift and nonstandard ones; having no electricity, no funds for repairs or new construction projects in the last four years; and a travel distance of more than one hour away from the center, accessible only through difficult terrain. Likewise, these are schools with multi-grade classes, with less than five teachers, and a population of less than 100 learners, more than 75 percent of whom are indigenous peoples,” according to the DepEd.
According to a July 2019 article posted on the DepEd’s website, around 7,144 schools across the country have been identified as needing immediate support.
DepEd 7 Officer-in-Charge Salustiano Jimenez said in a forum Tuesday, Dec. 17, that the islets and mountain barangays of the provinces of Cebu, Bohol, Negros Oriental and Siquijor have last mile schools.
However, Jimenez said they could exclude the last mile schools in Siquijor.
The DepEd 7 could only prioritize five last mile schools in Cebu, and three each in Bohol and Negros Oriental.
Jimenez said if there is enough budget, the other 55 last miler schools in Central Visayas would see the rise of new classrooms.
Far-flung villages in Bohol need new 18 classrooms; Cebu, 16; Negros Oriental, 17; and Siquijor, four.
Under the Last Mile Schools Program, the DepEd 7 will build standard classrooms to replace makeshift classrooms. The agency will provide standard school furniture, install solar panels to supply electricity to classrooms and provide information and communication technology tools. (Mae Fhel K. Gom-os, USJ-R Intern)