MANILA -- Clean classrooms, well-maintained learning tools and attractive landscaping inspire students to go to school, study hard and persevere to reach their dreams.
In connection with this, the Department of Education (DepEd), tries its best to turn these ideals into reality through Brigada Eskwela, an annual campaign which prepares schools nationwide a few weeks before the school year starts.
Tonisito Umali, Undersecretary for Legislative Affairs, External Partnerships, and Project Management Service told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) that the campaign was established in 2003 to address the resources gaps faced by the agency through strengthened partnerships with the communities.
"In 2017 we have expanded the concept of Brigada Eskwela, besides to clean or beautify our schools, we also make sure they are safe and prepared in time of disasters. We also have activities during the national maintenance week and we expect to sustain it for the whole year round," he said.
Umali added the campaign also focuses on encouraging out of school children and youth (OSCY) to go back to school and finish their studies.
"Not less than 78,000 OSYs, through the ALS and regular schooling, already went back to school. We wanted to decrease our drop out rates and make sure that all these partnerships will have a positive impact on the learning outcomes of our children," he said.
Citing this year's theme "Matatag na Bayan para sa Maunlad na Paaralan", Umali said the campaign reiterates the importance of everybody's contribution in providing the Filipino youth quality education.
"Hindi natin dapat iasa lamang ito sa Kagawaran ng Edukasyon kung hindi dapat lahat tayo ay may pakialam sa pagsisiguro na may dekalidad na pasilidad para sa edukasyon ay kolektibong responsilidad nating lahat (Ensuring quality facilities for education is a collective responsibility of us all and we shouldn't rely on the Department of Education for all these), he added.
The initiative mobilizes thousands of parents, alumni, civic groups, local businesses, non-government organizations, teachers, students, and individuals who volunteer their time and skills to do repairs on the school buildings and facilities in time for school opening.
In its year of implementation, a total of 12,533 schools participated as against the 4,000 expected school participants.
In 2008, it has become a permanent activity in the school calendar where all schools nationwide are now mandated to implement the program every second week of May.
Apart from instilling school pride in the community, the Brigada Eskwela campaign provides an opportunity for everyone to contribute in the future of the Filipino youth and in nation-building.
"We're grateful to DepEd for allowing us to give our time, ourselves to make better the lives of others and making a positive difference through this event," Pilmico chief operating officer Tristan Aboitiz told PNA.
Pilmico is the food business unit of the Aboitiz Group of Companies.
Aboitiz said he joined the campaign in 2008, doing "practically everything".
"I've done painting classrooms, painting tables, and chairs, I've painted murals, planted trees the only thing I haven't done is cover books. This is the first time I brought my oldest son, who is four years old, here as it's an opportunity to start them young because painting is something that even a child can enjoy and over time he'd really appreciate what it truly means," he said.
On Saturday, Aboitiz employees, including those from its corporate offices, helped the teachers, students, and parents with the different Brigada Eskwela tasks at the Pateros Elementary School.
They engaged in armchair painting, book covering, gardening and mural painting.
Citing that 400 of their employees have signed up for the event, Aboitiz said that they need not encourage them to take part in a meaningful campaign.
"That's the beautiful thing about it, once we put it up in the calendar for the year, people sign up automatically," he added.
Aboitiz said they have helped improve a total of 411 schools across the Philippines, making them more conducive to learning for 218,661 students.
"Last year, the Pateros Elementary School was awarded as the second place Brigada Eskwela Implementer. This was made possible by our volunteers who shared their time and efforts last year," he said.
With the aim to raise his children as compassionate and productive members of the society, Aboitiz said he wanted his eldest to see the true meaning of Brigada Eskwela.
"It's a bit difficult to explain to a four-year-old child, but you kind of instill the value of responsibility and teamwork, doing something as a group which is promising for these children who are our future," he added.
Meanwhile, Evangeline Rosario said parents must take part in Brigada Eskwela activities.
"Para makatulong sa school, para maging maaliwalas sa school para hindi mababalisa ang mga bata at mas mama-inspire sila mag-aral. Hindi naman mahirap maglinis, kung sama-sama kaming gumagawa, mas magaan at mapapadali ang trabaho (To help the school, to make the school fresh so the students wouldn't be stressed but be inspired to learn. It's not hard to clean up if we do it together, works becomes easier and quicker)," she said.
Rosario's daughter, Romelyn is a grade 6 pupil at the Pateros Elementary School. She has been supporting the school's brigada for six years now.
"Ang anak ko tumutulong din, silang magkaklase pumupunta sa classroom nila, tapos naglilinis sila doon (My child also helps out, she and her classmates go to their classroom, they clean it)," she added.
While working on their chosen tasks, Aboitiz encouraged all the volunteers to keep in mind the lasting impact of their deeds on the learners' lives.
"As we plant trees, we contribute to a greener environment. As we paint chairs and cover books, we help future nation builders achieve their best, and as we paint murals, we inspire them to imagine what is possible and motivate them to work their hardest," he said. (PNA)