By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
Following the death of eight elementary students in a road crash in Cebu, the Department of Education (DepEd) on Friday reiterated its call to government agencies, as well as to local government units, to “ensure the safety” of roads and vehicles in order to avoid accidents and similar incidents.
In a statement, DepEd extended its “sincerest condolences” to the bereaved families of eight learners who died in a road accident in Boljoon, Cebu on Friday morning. “Initial reports state that one parent was also confirmed dead,” DepEd said.
Citing reports from its regional office in Cebu, DepEd said that a total of 39 learners from Nangka and San Antonio Elementary Schools – together with two parents and two teachers – “were on their way to a district athletic meet on board a mini dump truck which suddenly lost its brakes and fell into a ravine.”
DepEd said that the Regional Director “immediately instructed” the Schools Division Superintendent of Cebu Province to “personally visit the site and attend to the needs of the victims” who were brought to the neighboring district hospitals in Boljoon, Vincente Sotto, Carcar, and Oslob. DepEd noted that a total of 12 learners with minor bruises “have been allowed to go home.”
Meanwhile, the Regional Office also issued a memorandum to its field units to “appeal for financial assistance to the victims.”
In relation to this, DepEd once again called on its partner government agencies and LGUs to ensure the safety of roads and vehicles to avoid similar incidents. It likewise reminds its own officials to “always prioritize the safety of learners, especially in activities that require them to travel outside of school premises.”
In March this year, 10 students of Basay National High School along with their coach were also involved in a road mishap in Zambonaguita, Negros Oriental. The victims were aboard a public utility van on their way home to Bayawan following a competition in Cebu when the van collided with an oncoming truck transporting sugar cane. The incident claimed the lives of five students – one Grade 7 learner and four Grade 11 learners.
This incident prompted DepEd to propose insurance coverage not just for learners but also for teachers in both public and private schools.
“If we cannot protect them from the society where they fall as victims and if we cannot convince our vehicle operators to enforce circulars on the safety of children, then all the children in both public and private schools would have to be insured,” Briones said in an earlier interview.
Briones said that the funds for insurance of learners and teachers will be included in the 2020 budget proposal of DepEd to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM). Based on the outcome of the initial meetings with various stakeholders, she noted that the proposed insurance may cover not only school-related activities but also to aid learners and teachers who might be victims of “horrific crimes” as well as those who are involved in “accidents beyond our control.”
DepEd Undersecretary Annalyn Sevilla earlier explained that given the student population in all schools – around 23 million in public schools and over four million in private schools – around P2 billion to P3 billion would be needed for insurance in a year to cover about 27 million children who are in school.