AWAY FROM HOME. At the evacuation center, families will have to go through the daily discomforts, far from what they used to live in their homes and communities. (Alexander Lopez/ photo)

DAVAO CITY, Philippines — Department of Education Secretary Leonor Briones called on the families affected by the conflict in Marawi City to allow their children to go to the nearest school.

“We strongly advise families from Marawi to enroll their children in the nearest schools wherever they are,” Briones said.

She said the DepEd has already waived the requirements of students from Marawi who will be transferring schools.

“We have waived the usual documentary requirements. After all, children are not involved in any of these activities at this time,” she said.

The Education Secretary said there are 22,000 students and 2,205 teachers who are affected by the siege in Marawi as government troops continue to gain hold of the city where the Maute group are.

Briones said a day after the declaration of Martial Law on May 25, they were briefed by the military advisers about the situation.

She said the initial advice was that it was okay for them to open schools, hence they announced that there will be an opening of classes nationwide.

However, as the armed encounters intensified, Briones said they were told by security advisers that even after the government recover the city, the clearing operations will take time.

“Originally, we thought that classes can open within two weeks. We are still waiting for the advice of our military advisers on when Marawi will finally be ready for the opening of school,”

Briones said, adding the extension “might be longer.”

“The way things are, baka tumagal ang clearing operations even if mabawi na ang Marawi,” she said.

Based on DepEd’s data, 1,391 children from Marawi City are enrolled in schools as far as Tarlac province.

“We have Marawi evacuees there. Because the tendency of course is always to go to relatives and friends,” she said.

Meanwhile, Briones said they also appealed to the local government unit in Iligan City, where evacuees from Marawi continue to swell, not to host evacuees in the classrooms to allow the continuation of schools.

“It has been reported, for example, that in Iligan, three schools are being used as evacuation centers. However, we are holding classes in these schools,” she said.

“So for schools which are occupied, we are asking local government units to please empty the schools which are used as evacuation centers and perhaps assign other appropriate places so that the children will not be traumatized, bothered and disturbed by all the excitement that is happening,” Briones added.

Briones also stressed the DepEd’s policy that schools are zones of peace. She said they will put up tarpaulins in schools in Mindanao to intensify their campaign.

“We should protect our learners and children from conflict. Because they are not part of all the dramatics going on at present,” she said.(

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