As a sign of support to the Department of Education’s (DepEd) initiative to repair and rehabilitate schools damaged by the armed conflict in Marawi City, R.K. Shimizu (Nagasaki) Foundation, Inc. donated various school furniture on August 25.
The total donation of 3,326 items, which include 1,000 adjustable tables, 990 adjustable chairs, 571 randoseru (firm-sided backpacks), and 114 fixed stand tables, are in the warehouse of the Department of Energy (DOE) and are ready for delivery once clearance from the Department of National Defense (DND) is obtained.
Secretary Leonor Magtolis Briones, Undersecretary Alain Del Pascua, Assistant Secretary Tonisito Umali, External Partnerships Service (EPS) Director Margarita Ballesteros, Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi, RKS(N)FI Board of Director Luis Lu, RKS(N)FI Chairman Katsutoshi Shimizu, Governor of Nagasaki Prefecture Houdou Nakamura, and Japan Embassy Minister Atsushi Kuwabara led the turnover ceremony held at the DepEd Central Office.
“Being in school gives [learners] a sense of normalcy, gives them a sense that life is going on. The fact that they go to school at regular hours, the seats and desks, the teachers who help them along, their parents, make them look forward to a world of hope and caring,” Briones said.
Umali highlighted the significance of the ceremony and called the event symbolic, “This turnover ceremony symbolizes a lot of things about friendship between two countries who share a lot of commonalities and history together. This event really shows that, with this kind of friendship and with this kind of partnership, we can do more for our children.”
In giving preview to RKS(N)FI’s rebuilding project, Lu pointed out, “The most that we can do now is to rebuild Marawi. Our vision is to be able to build schools and improve, with Marawi as priority. But we cannot do it alone. We need your help.”
According to Lu, once construction of a school building is finished, RKS(N)FI will turn it over to DepEd. Furniture and other things needed in the classroom will be jointly provided by RKS(N)FI and the Prefecture of Nagasaki. RKS(N)FI also had an agreement with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Engineering Battalion for the latter to provide free service for manpower in the construction of school buildings under the project.
Lu further explained that cement, steel, lumber, plywood, hardware, paint, and electrical supplies are still needed, and asked everyone’s help in achieving the goal of rehabilitating schools Marawi City.
In his message, Shimizu shared that he started the foundation in March 2011 to help improve school facilities in the Philippines. The foundation immediately commenced the construction of school buildings in provinces that served as the route for the Bataan Death March during World War II, in the hopes of helping ease the pain and sorrow felt by the victims and their families.
“This time, our donation will go to Marawi City where it is needed very badly. Why am I doing this? I dream of a beautiful rainbow, with one end in the Philippines and the other end in Japan, [which symbolizes] a beautiful relationship,” Shimizu said.
Since 2011, RKS(N)FI has donated 12 school buildings (three in Batangas; four in Tarlac; two in Bataan; two in Pampanga; and one in Mindoro), equipped with chairs, teachers’ table, television sets, computer sets, comfort rooms, water supply, and Japanese gardens.
For Minister Kuwabara, the donation of RKS(N)FI and the government of Nagasaki Prefecture will greatly improve the learning environment of students in Marawi and bring them hope for a brighter future. He also shared that in July, Japan decided to extend humanitarian grant aid, amounting to $2 million, to support the relief operations for those affected by the Marawi crisis through the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) and the United Nation Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
Meanwhile, Pascua explained the undertaking of the Department, “Bangon Marawi. Education cannot wait. Education must continue,” as its contribution to the overall national effort of rebuilding Marawi City. The daily response for internally displaced learners—from tracking and accommodating them to addressing their daily needs—is now dubbed as “Tuloy Edukasyon: Tugon sa Marawi.“ Pascua also expounded on the activities, such as Brigada Eskwela, Oplan Balik Eskwela, Adopt-a-School, and Alternative Learning System (ALS), lined up under the massive drive.
Cusi emphasized that more than the physical infrastructure, the bigger challenge in rebuilding Marawi City is the psychological trouble the war has caused, and recognized the role of DepEd in reinstating normalcy, especially among learners. DOE is part of the committee that will address the infrastructure in keeping energy available to schools.
“Whatever is happening—whether there are disturbances, typhoons, earthquakes, battles—education has to continue. We thank the foundation for making contributions to make sure that the children are able to continue the learning process,” Briones said.
Heeding the plight of learners and teachers forced to leave the city and temporarily adopt a different learning environment, DepEd is collaborating with different education partners to give the necessary assistance to learners and teachers and ensure learning continuity. (DepEd)