CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – Security has been tightened around a public school in a remote village in Valencia City, Bukidnon, following the shooting of a teacher in Sitio Dalit, Barangay Lumbayao last week.
Dr. Victoria Gazo, Valencia schools division superintendent, said village leaders have committed to assign members of Civilian Volunteers Organizations (CVOs) and zone leaders to serve as security officers at Dalit Elementary School during schools hours.
She said the presence of CVOs would help in deterring a possible attack on Dalit school teachers like what happened to Zhydee Cabañelez, who was shot by four armed men inside her classroom on Oct. 15.
“During our coordination meeting, I requested barangay officials to help in resolving issues, (including) some teachers’ reluctance to continue serving in the school because of fear after the shooting incident,” Gazo was quoted by a Philippine Information Agency report Tuesday.
She said if teachers will no longer serve at Dalit Elementary School, parents will be forced to send their children to the nearest school in Lumbayao.
“If this happens, it would be very risky for the children to commute due to the rolling terrain and the pupil’s daily crossing in Pulangui River,” Gazo added.
Meanwhile, school pupils who witnessed the shooting underwent a therapy session so they could process the ordeal they experienced, a Department of Education (DepEd) official said Friday.
Gazo said a team of educators trained to handle psychosocial intervention went to Dalit to conduct a one-day debriefing session with students there.
The school is situated in a community of about a hundred households with four multi-grade teachers handling 51 students.
She said the debriefing facilitators were dispatched on Wednesday (Oct. 16), a day after four armed men barged into the classroom of Zhydee Cabañelez searching for her teacher-husband Ramil and shot her several times in front of her class.
According to police, Cabañelez was hit on her should and legs, while Ramil was unharmed.
During the session, the team asked the kids to draw what they experienced to assess their emotional level following the incident.
The facilitators noted that many of the participants drew images depicting sadness, she said.
“These drawings that indicate sadness reflect the pupils’ longing for their teacher (Cabañelez). Many of them told facilitators they missed her,” Gazo said.
Aside from the students, the parents also took part in the debriefing.
“Both children and parents were very responsive during the session. The parents were there so they could help us in handling their children’s trauma,” Gazo said.
She said it is important for parents to report to school authorities if they noticed they children are acting strangely so DepEd could help them cope with trauma.
Gazo said she has also ordered Dalit teachers to postpone the periodical tests so they pupils could take an early semestral break.
“I don’t think it’s proper for the children to take the exams considering what they just experienced. It’s best that they should rest and enjoy the one-week break,” she added.
Gazo admitted that this was the first time that such incident happened under her watch.
“We were shocked at what happened. But we still want to send to message that our schools are peace zones,” she said.
After the shooting, Gazo said she requested the village officials of Lumbayao to assign civilian volunteers to keep watch over the four-classroom campus.
She said she has also asked parents to escort the teachers to and from the school.
Meanwhile, Gazo said Cabañelez and her husband are still on official leave while she recovers from her gunshot wounds. (davaotoday.com)