Press Release
January 21, 2017

DOH, DepEd told: After condoms, focus attention on 5M kids in water-less schools

The DepEd and the DOH should be as aggressive in putting an end to "waterless schools" as they are in pushing for the distribution of condoms in public schools, Senate Minority Leader Ralph Recto said today.

"We would like to see the same determined collaboration in installing water facilities, in building more toilets, in providing other health services in the country's 46,739 public elementary schools," Recto said.

"If we're going to give away condoms, then let us also provide clean drinking water to millions of schoolchildren. Let's erase the backlog in water and sanitation facilities," Recto said.

Handwashing, he said, is a "preventive measure that staves off sickness that leads to class absences."

Recto said "zero-water" schools number 3,628 out of 46,739 nationwide, according to a presentation by the Department of Education last March.

However, 8,109 schools rely primarily on rainwater catchment, "which renders them basically waterless," Recto said.

"This brings up the real total of water-less schools to 11,737. So about one in four walang tubig. Ilang bata ang apektado? Easily 5 million students," he said.

Only 18,393 schools nationwide have piped-in water. The next biggest source are deep wells, which 17,757 schools have, Recto said.

"With lack of water comes the problem of sanitation facilities," Recto said. "There is a toilet shortage in all schools and you don't need statistics to back that claim."

While the previous government had started building more toilets, including classrooms with one, the toilet-to-room gap remains wide, as only a fraction of the 493,669 classrooms nationwide have lavatories, Recto said.

"I think we should start treating water as a basic and important education resource," Recto said.

Recto said the availability of water impacts not just on the health of students--one survey said 60 percent of gradeschoolers have intestinal worms--but also school-based nutrition programs.

"Paano ka magluluto kung wala kang tubig? Basic yan. Ngayon pa naman na malawak na ang ating schoolfeeding program," Recto said, referring to DepEd's program to serve one free meal a day for 120 days to 1.9 million underweight Kindergarten to Grade 6 pupils.

Recto also called on DepEd and DOH to join hands in placing more dentists in schools.

There are roughly 300 dentists serving a combined student-teacher population of 22.7 million. "There's only 1 dentist for every 75,000 public school students and teachers," Recto lamented.

Citing a government survey, Recto said 1 in 7 absent from work or school at least once a month and 1 in 10 fail to go to school or work at least twice a year due to aching tooth or gums.

"Another disturbing finding of the survey is that 9 in 10 urban children have decayed tooth," Recto said. "Isama natin ang oral health sa mga programang pangkalusugan sa mga paaralan," Recto said.

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