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Churches urged to offer chapels as classrooms

MANILA (UCAN) : The social action arm of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of The Philippines urged bishops and priests in disaster areas to offer chapels to be used as temporary classrooms as some 25 million primary and secondary level pupils around the country return to school in June.

“I think the Lord would even be glad if his house will be used in helping others,” said Father Edu Gariguez, executive secretary of the National Secretariat for Social Action and Caritas-Philippines.

“The Lord is always about mercy and compassion,” he said in an interview, admitting that using the chapels as classrooms is a “band-aid solution” to a problem that should have been resolved by the government.

Gariguez said he doubts if the number of chapels would be able to accommodate a big number of children. He added that Catholic chapels, especially in villages, are usually small in size.

In Bataan province, north of Manila, some 170 schoolchildren in Bayan-bayanan village have been holding classes in a chapel, garage and convent after the village’s school was damaged by a landslide three years ago.

Gariguez suggested that temporary classrooms should be built in areas affected by disasters. “How come that we lack classrooms when we have enough resources from the donations given to typhoon victims?” Gariguez said.

Data obtained from the Department of Education shows that the country is short 67,849 classrooms nationwide. 

As of April 2015, the government was only able to finish building 7,062 classrooms, which accounts for only 16 per cent of the 43,183 classrooms that the department planned to build.

“This low completion rate in classroom construction surely spells disaster for the public school system,” said Representative Antonio Tinio of the Teachers Party in congress. He believes a massive shortage remains in the face of a huge demand for classrooms.

The Catholic Educational Association of The Philippines, meanwhile, assured parents that the security and safety of students remains one of the top priorities of Church-run institutions in the country. 

“Our schools are generally compliant with the accepted standards of safety in our infrastructures,” said Anthony Coloma, spokesperson of the association.

 

The association counts 1,252 member Catholic universities and colleges around the country, many of which are mission schools offering basic education to poor communities.