Monday, June 18, 2018
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Roces tried, scrapped it in ’60s

LESSONS must continue despite flooding in a classroom in Cebu province. JUNJIE MENDOZA

It’s déjà vu all over again.

We’ve been down these flooded streets before. So I was very surprised when certain people who were already around back then—and thus should know better—now want to move the school opening from June to September.

Their reasoning: The rainy season starts in June and the resulting typhoons and floods keep the students out of school too much of the time. Moving the school year to September would mean it would end in June, thus sparing the kids not just from the floods but from missing too many school days.


Anding Roces’ idea

I was in grade school at La Salle Taft in the 1960s when the then education secretary, Alejandro R. Roces, hit upon the brilliant idea of resetting the school year thusly.

Most people thought it was a very good idea, too. And so in the first year, the school closing was moved from March to April, while the next opening was moved from June to July.

The following year, classes ended in May and began in August. In this way, after three years, schools throughout the country opened in September and closed in June. Our summer vacations were in July and August.

Return to old schedule

Brilliant? Good idea? Well, Roces had said it was going to be an experiment to test its feasibility. And to his credit, he accepted its impracticability and, soon enough, returned the school year to its old schedule.

The problems? The students complained it was too hot to be cooped up in a classroom in April and May, thus  making it not conducive to learning.

Harvest, Santacruzan



Also, April and May were the harvest months in the provinces and the kids were needed by their parents to help bring in the crops. And so many students absented themselves from school.

May throughout the country is also Santacruzan month and what parent wouldn’t want his or her adorable children to be either sagala or escorts in provincial processions. School be damned.


Cabin fever

The new vacation months— July and August—were also still stormy and wet and so the kids and their families could not go anywhere for a vacation. They experienced cabin fever in their own homes. Resort owners weren’t too happy either—they had no customers.

And, it  still stormed and flooded in September, October and November so that many school days were  lost.

Brownie points

Roces earned “pogi” points for his move to revert to the old schedule. He came, he saw and he adjusted. So why can’t our current crop of officials do the same? Why, like Sen. Franklin Drilon, do they still insist on messing with the schedule again?

Drilon is a few years older than me so he must have been in school at the same time I was, and must surely have gone through the schedule change.

The problem is not with the typhoons or floods. These we will always have because of where our country is located on the globe. Climate change is already upon us and we can do very little about that at this point, but the way to mitigate it is to study its effects and make the necessary adjustments.

Today, the slightest rains bring swift-rising and long-lasting floods that paralyze everything—schools, offices, airports, hospitals and more. The losses in time, money, school and work hours are staggering.

Declog waterways

We know our waterways are clogged—let’s dredge and clean them up. We know many unscrupulous people have illegally built their properties on esteros and creeks—let’s tear them down.

Squatters have put up their shanties along canals and dump their garbage in the waters— let’s move them out of there. This is not a rich-versus-poor thing—this is  for-the-greater-good thing.

Someone pointed out that you wouldn’t throw your cigarette butts and other trash in your own living room, would you? So why throw them in the streets which are the living rooms of our collective home?

Do we want to continue on this way? Or are we going to do something about it?

One thing we should not do is move the school opening to September. It’s no solution. We’ve been there before.

As an aside: Former Education Secretary Alejandro R. Roces went on to receive the National Artist Award for Literature in 2003. He wrote books, essays, short stories and opinion pieces. It’s partly because of him we now celebrate Independence Day on June 12 instead of July 4. He died in 2011.

(Billy Formoso, a La Salle Taft ’65er and La Salle Green Hills ’69er, is a desk editor at the Philippine Daily Inquirer.)

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