Officials in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) are determined to harness local school boards (LSBs) in improving the state of education in the region.
Alfhadar Pajiji, regional Department of Education (DepEd) assistant secretary for special projects, said they recognize the essential role of LSBs in advancing the welfare of public schools in the ARMM.
The region is composed of the provinces of Sulu, Maguindanao, Basilan, Tawi-Tawi, and Lanao del Sur, as well as the cities of Marawi and Lamitan.
“While the regional government is working at addressing issues in the education sector, the functions of the LSB cannot be underestimated and the need to make these boards functional is a challenge to the department,” he said.
Republic Act 7160, or the Local Government Code of 1991, mandates local government officials to work on education sector concerns. Under the law, school boards should be composed of local chief executives, school superintendents and district supervisors, councilors, board members, treasurers, Sangguniang Kabataan chairmen, presidents of parent-teacher associations, and non-academic personnel of schools.
The LSB determines the annual supplementary budget needs for the operation and maintenance of public schools within the province, city or municipality, and serves as an advisory committee to the local legislative body on educational matters such as the necessity for, and the use of local appropriations for educational purposes.
“Having a strong, efficient and working local school board is the key to meeting effective delivery of education services, such as identification of priority schools to be rehabilitated, and facilities to be constructed,” Pajiji said.
The regional DepEd official cited the case of Naga City, which saw a dramatic improvement in its basic education after its then mayor, the late secretary of the Department of the Interior and Local Government Jesse Robredo, activated the city school board.
Robredo was among the local chief executives who advocated for the activation of the LSBs to improve education in the country. He noted that “local education governance reforms can be done” and that “empowered and functional local school boards have both the mandate and legal personality to serve as focal point for these reforms.”
Pajiji said regional DepEd is “encouraging local government units throughout the ARMM to help make local school boards more functional. The pressing problems we have on education such as the repair of dilapidated classrooms can be addressed more efficiently if we have active school boards.”
ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman said among the current challenges the region faces is the poor state of education and the regional government is taking various steps to reform and improve this sector.
The ARMM government has allotted a total of P2.3 billion for basic education facilities in the region from 2013 to 2015. Through its Department of Public Works and Highways, it has built a total of 332 school buildings across the region in 2013 and 2014. The ongoing construction of 819 additional classrooms is set to be finished by next year.
The region has 2,155 elementary schools and 304 secondary schools that are grouped into nine schools divisions, namely Maguindanao I and II, Marawi City, Lanao del Sur I and II, Lamitan City, Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi. (BPI-ARMM/APB/PIA-10)