Friday, May 20, 2011

BRIGADA ESKWELA Showcases Spirit of Volunteerism

By:  Gilbert M. Forbes

There is no more other best opportune time to show our solidarity, concern, compassion, and a helping hand than every last week of May when our schools are waiting for a yearly touch of love as each conducts BRIGADA ESKWELA otherwise known as the National Schools Maintenance Week this year, May 23- 28, 2011.

This week long maintenance work which engages all education stakeholders to contribute their time, effort and resources in ensuring that public schools facilities are set in time every school opening.

This DepEd-wide activity always begin with a caravan beginning at the Central Office for participants based at the DepEd main office and the National Capital Region (NCR), regional offices, and division offices for participants from the field. The caravan ends at a selected public school either elementary or secondary where an official kick-off ceremony is held.

Since its inception in 2003, Brigada Eskwela has become a movement that has ensured the readiness of public schools for school opening. More than 7 million volunteers comprising parents, teachers, employees, local government units, alumni associations and civic organizations have joined Brigada Eskwela in 2009 alone contributing around 10 Billion pesos savings for the government.

I, The Learning Captain is witness to the magic of BRIGADA ESKWELA which enables his school assignment to install two electric water pumps connected to supply twenty classrooms plus rewiring, fencing, repainting, roofing, general clean-up etc., which when translated monetarily could be more than Php0.5 million since Brigada Eskwela was introduced. This doesn’t include yet other financial direct assistance in a yearly basis of the PTA to finance school electricity, beautification drives and other immediate school needs. Practically, the stakeholders are the one spending for the school upkeep and operating expenses due to the absence of MOOE.

It is for this reason that to maximize the strength of Brigada Eskwela as a brand that can unite the community behind a common cause (education), Brigada Eskwela Plus was launched in 2010 making it a whole year round affair which is being implemented in three phases focused on contributing to the (a) increase in participation rate; (b) decreasing drop out rate; and (c) improvement of academic performance of public schoolchildren.

Adopt-A-School Program Executive Director Mari Paul Soriano said in 2010 that the achievements gained by Brigada Eskwela inspire them to utilize existing partnerships with the communities to get parents involved in ensuring that the schools are conducive for learning, that their children are enrolled and actually learn in school – which is the essence of Brigada Eskwela Plus. “Critical to this scaled-up initiative is showing the parents the value of their children’s education," he added.

Phase I shall tap the community to do year-round repairs of school furniture, classrooms, other physical facilities and cleaning of school grounds, prioritizing roof repairs for the coming school as well insure an increase in participation rate.
Phase II shall enlist volunteers to help identify drop-outs and school-aged children (aged 6-16 years old) who should be in school. It also aims to urge their parents to bring them back to school in line with the Education-For-All goals that the country has pledged to meet by 2015. This year, universalization of kindergarten is included.

The last phase shall contribute to the improvement of academic performance of public schoolchildren with the help of their parents and other community stakeholders.

Brigada Eskwela Plus is implemented by the department’s Adopt-A-School Program National Secretariat and first launched during the incumbency of former DepEd Secretary Jesli Lapus, who, in 2008, successfully urged all 44,619 public elementary and high schools to join Brigada Eskwela.

Aside from the private sector, community folks and stakeholders, all DepEd employees are encouraged to join the Brigada Eskwela activities by offering their skills or providing their support in-kind to public schools near their residence. Interested employees are given two days to do volunteer work on official time, provided that such work is approved by their head of office.

Indeed, BRIGADA ESKWELA only showcases the spirit of volunteerism that we as a people posses.

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Gawad Kalinga Volunteers in Contrast with BRIGADA ESKWELA
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