Well, it’s been a long vacation, especially for school children. What with the holidays declared by government as a consequence of the commemoration of All Saints and All Souls Days. And what with the additional sudden class suspension in areas affected by the two successive earthquakes in only a day apart! The relatively strong temblors devastated certain areas in the Davao Region, specifically Davao City, and Digos City and the Municipality of Magsaysay in Davao del Sur, and in the Cotabato and Sarangani Provinces, including General Santos, Koronadal and Kidapawan Cities.
But even as the long break gave the children enough time to be out of the classrooms, their enjoyment, as we have noticed with our own young grand kids, seems to have been curtailed by their traumatic experience during the October 29 and 31 earthquakes.
Our three grandchildren, one who only arrived from Cebu two days before the October 29 incident, were all fidgety every time they felt some movements on the leaves of trees near our farm house. That is, if they were outside. But when they were inside our residence they kept watch with our chandelier on the ceiling of our living room. Any slight movement from the hangers therefrom triggered questions from them asking whether there is another earthquake or aftershock.
We also noted from our favorite fish vendor in the Calinan Market where we do wet marketing every week that her Grade 6 child was already tagging along with her. When we asked her why she was having a young “bodyguard” her answer was amusing. But it showed her concern on the effect of the earthquakes on the psyche of the young girl.
According to the fish vendor her child was first traumatized with the October 16 tremor and the fear of the non-existent yet frantically peddled warning of a tsunami. Her house, she said, was along the shoreline of Sinawilan in Davao del Sur.
She told us that during that incident her entire family had to run to higher grounds and was able to climb a steep hill about a distance of a kilometer and a half. She said she could not recall how she and her husband and her three children reached the elevated place without feeling tired. And according to her, she and the other members of her family felt the extremely difficult route they took only when they went back home.
Now her problem is how to erase the fear of her children from the earthquake. None of the kids want to be left alone in their house anymore. And they are hesitant to go to school for fear of being caught inside when another temblor strikes.
So, she added that on Sundays when she is out selling fish in the Calinan market her Grade 6 girl joins her and just busy herself with doing little help in attracting customer, not knowing that her sudden presence was already enough attraction to observant fish buyers. She said that she has her other two older children left to the care of her mother-in-law who lives in a neighboring barangay.
In Davao City it was reported that mayor Inday Sara Duterte-Carpio has ordered for the thorough inspection and evaluation of the structural integrity of school buildings reported to have sustained damage after the two successive earthquakes.
Thus, the suspension of classes in the city was extended up to yesterday, Monday, November 4. However, we have doubts whether the inspection and assessment of the damage would be completed by yesterday. There are just too many schools reported to have sustained cracks on its walls and other component. There are also those classrooms that suffered fallen down ceiling components. Hence, a thorough check on the ceiling portion has to be conducted if the possibility of school children being hit by falling debris be avoided.
From what we personally heard from the lady mayor, it was clear that there was difficulty in having the inspection of school buildings done immediately after the October 31 tremor. The day after was already a holiday and workers in government agencies charged with the inspection may have already gone on vacation for the long weekend.
Hence, we assume that the mayor has only one day in mind for the engineers and other structural experts to undertake the inspection and assessment on the integrity of the school structures affected.
We have our doubts if the one day allocated for the purpose will be enough for a thorough check. If it is not, then allowing the resumption of classes in schools with damaged buildings and letting students occupy classrooms where damage is found could be a major risk to take.
Possibly the city mayor and the schools division superintendent will have to pass on the burden of determining the option to take to the school principals. The school executives will now have to assume responsibility of determining the safety of holding classes in destroyed classrooms. It is now their duty to relocate classes in areas inside the school compound where they feel the safety of students can be guaranteed.
Meanwhile we believe that as classes resume today, it may be worthwhile if school administrators use the first hours of classes for some kind of psychological debriefing. Surely, this will lessen the trauma of children after their recent experience in the three major quakes in as many weeks. That is, if the school executives and the teachers do not also need debriefing themselves.