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DepEd: Public schools to remain neutral, ‘zones of peace’

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By Merlina Hernando-Malipot

The Department of Education (DepEd) reiterated its strong commitment to maintain the neutrality of schools as “zones of peace” to ensure that learners and teachers are in an environment conducive to learning and free from harm.

Education Secretary Leonor Briones maintained that DepEd continues to support efforts that will ensure the safety of students and teachers during a meeting with Spanish Ambassador Jorge Moragas Sanchez at the DepEd–Central Office in Pasig City recently.

During the meeting, Briones and Sanchez discussed the Safe Schools Declaration (SSD) and the Spanish Language Program. The SSD, an international initiative, was crafted and developed through consultations among various states as “an inter-governmental political commitment that provides countries the opportunity to express support for protecting students, teachers, schools, and universities from attack during times of armed conflict; the importance of the continuation of education during armed conflict; and the implementation of concrete measures to deter the military use in schools.”

Briones emphasized that the DepEd strongly supports the SSD through DepEd issuances and campaign materials. “As for the Safe Schools Declaration, we fully support it,” she said. “We have issued a number of publications and circulars in our Department [and] we have campaigned for it, especially in Mindanao,” she added.

All schools, Briones added, are required by DepEd to “carry the posters” with messages: “’This is a zone of peace, this is a safe school.’” As to the status of the Safe Schools Declaration that will be endorsed by the government, she said that “the Declaration is already at the Office of the Executive Secretary for further comments and clearance.”

Sanchez, on the other hand, told Briones that the Spanish Minister of Education and Professional Training, Ma. Isabel Celaà Diéguez, requested him to transmit a formal invitation for her to be one of the main speakers at the Third International Conference on Safe Schools to be held in Palma de Mallorca on May 28 to 29.

The Philippines, Sanchez noted, was one of those selected among the countries in the United Nations to present its experience in the conference since the country has been supporting and implementing the SSD – especially in Mindanao.

Aside from the SSD, Briones and Sanchez also discussed the offering of the Spanish Language program.

Sanchez expressed his desire for the renewal of his country’s Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with DepEd on the teaching of Spanish language in schools which expired in 2016. He pointed out that the Spanish government “shall continue to support the teaching of Spanish language in the Philippines.”

Aside from Briones and Sanchez, also present during the meeting were DepEd Undersecretary and Chief of Staff Nepomuceno Malaluan, International Cooperation Office (ICO) Director Margarita Consolacion Ballesteros, Bureau of Curriculum Development (BCD) Director Jocelyn Andaya, and Spanish Embassy First Secretary for Administrative and Cultural Affairs Pilar Cuadra.

Briones assured the Spanish Ambassador that DepEd will “update him on the status of the endorsement for the Declaration” and that the MOU on the Spanish Language Program “shall be renewed.”

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