TELUS International Philippines employees contribute to DepEd’s Brigada Eskwela Program by aiding in the restoration of classrooms and school facilities at Lakan Dula High School in Tondo, Manila, as reported by ARNOLD QUIZOL for MANILA BULLETIN.

In a bid to invoke the time-honored spirit of ‘bayanihan,’ the Department of Education (DepEd) has kicked off its annual Brigada Eskwela program on August 14th, 2023. The initiative, known as the National Schools Maintenance Week, rallies educators, students, parents, local communities, and various stakeholders to join forces and ensure that public schools across the Philippines are well-prepared for the upcoming academic year.

Under the theme “Bayanihan Para sa MATATAG na Paaralan,” the 2023 Brigada Eskwela will span from August 14th to August 19th, aligning with the impending opening of classes for the School Year 2023-2024, scheduled for August 29th.

During the 2023 BE national kick-off event held in Tarlac on August 7th, Vice President and Education Secretary, Sara Duterte, passionately called upon every Filipino to embody the spirit of bayanihan and lend their assistance in readying schools for the new academic term.

A Return to True Essence

DepEd has made a concerted effort to underscore the genuine essence of Brigada Eskwela in the current academic year. The emphasis is squarely placed on volunteerism and bayanihan, encapsulating the cooperative and collective approach that Filipinos are known for.

“We want to go back to the real essence of Brigada Eskwela this year, and that is bayanihan,” highlighted DepEd Undersecretary and Spokesperson, Michael Poa, during the national kick-off press conference.

This renewed focus has led to the removal of competitive elements, such as contests for the “Best Implementing School,” which had inadvertently steered the program away from its core principles.

Poa explained, “Because we noticed that competition, in the past few years, has overshadowed the true essence of Brigada Eskwela, we want to simplify it this year. Our goal is to create clean, neat, and orderly classrooms, decluttered and ready for the approaching school year.”

Image source: DepEd Philippines (Official FB Page)
Contribution-Free Zone

An important distinction of this year’s Brigada Eskwela is the strict prohibition on soliciting or collecting any form of contribution, whether monetary or in-kind, from school personnel, volunteers, or stakeholders. DepEd is committed to keeping the focus on voluntary participation, ensuring that schools are genuinely prepared for the upcoming academic year.

DepEd’s External Partnerships Service (EPS) administers the BE program, which engages various segments of society, including local communities, parents, alumni, civic groups, businesses, NGOs, and private individuals. Volunteers contribute their time and expertise toward tasks such as clean-ups, repairs, and maintenance work, all aimed at enhancing the learning environment.

Guided by the BE Implementing Guidelines outlined in DepEd Order No. 21 of 2023, regions and school divisions are directed to provide comprehensive support to school heads. Before the program’s commencement, schools are required to assess their physical facilities and maintenance needs, ensuring adherence to the strict prohibition on solicitation.

A BE Working committee is tasked with orchestrating public awareness campaigns, forming partnerships for resource mobilization, overseeing program implementation, managing administrative and financial matters, and documenting the initiative.

Voluntary Endeavors

Throughout the implementation of Brigada Eskwela, all activities and tasks undertaken are rooted in a voluntary spirit. School heads play a pivotal role in maintaining cleanliness during the week-long initiative, and afterward, schools are responsible for preparing and submitting accomplishment reports.

To ensure the sustainability of BE efforts, schools are encouraged to implement strategies that perpetuate the spirit of bayanihan. Additionally, DepEd has made it a point to remind schools of the recognition and compensation, in the form of service credits and compensatory time off, for teachers who actively participate in the program.

In light of Presidential Proclamation No. 297 dated July 21st, 2023, DepEd reiterates the termination of the State of Public Health Emergency across the Philippines due to Covid-19.

Image source: DepEd Philippines (Official FB Page)
Keeping Tabs with the Bantay Balik-Eskwela Hotline

For comprehensive monitoring from the inception of Brigada Eskwela until the commencement of the new school year, the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Philippines is set to launch the Bantay Balik-Eskwela Hotline on August 14th. This initiative underscores the commitment of various sectors to ensure a smooth and organized start to the academic year.

Image source: DepEd Philippines (Official FB Page)

As DepEd’s Brigada Eskwela 2023 unfolds, Filipinos are reminded of the profound impact that collective effort and bayanihan can have in cultivating an enriching educational environment for the nation’s youth. The convergence of diverse stakeholders, driven by a shared commitment, sets a powerful precedent for a robust and successful academic year ahead.