Philippine Volcano Displacement Forces Schooling under Trees

by Joshua Brown
Mayon Volcano Eruption

With the eruption of the Mayon volcano in northeastern Albay province, almost 20,000 people have evacuated and sought refuge in local schools, causing significant disruption to education. As of Friday, a vast number of students have been forced to conduct their classes in makeshift classrooms such as chapels, tents, or even under trees, according to officials.

The Mayon volcano, one of the Philippines’ deadliest among 24 active volcanoes, began emitting lava late Sunday in a mild eruption that so far hasn’t led to any fatalities or injuries. However, authorities warned it could prolong for months, potentially leading to an extended humanitarian crisis.

The majority of the evacuees, typically inhabitants of farming communities, resided within a 6-kilometer (3.7-mile) radius around the volcano’s crater – an area long known as a permanent danger zone but home to thriving societies for many years.

These displaced individuals were guided to over 20 emergency centers, primarily composed of elementary and secondary school campuses. Classrooms within these schools have transformed into congested refuges for numerous families, equipped with sleeping mats, bags of clothes, cooking stoves, and children’s toys.

Over 17,000 students from five Albay towns have been affected by these volcanic displacement events. Approximately 80% of these students are continuing their education through an emergency protocol that involves parents instructing their children at home or elsewhere using “learning modules” provided by schools, according to Alvin Cruz from the Department of Education in Albay.

The adoption of this remote learning approach, which was widely employed during the two-year-long COVID-19 pandemic, allowed students to continue their education from their homes during strict police-enforced quarantines.

“After recovering from the pandemic, which led to significant learning loss, we now face the eruption of the Mayon volcano,” Cruz explained in an interview with The Big Big News. He added that the current challenge is locating displaced students to provide their parents with the necessary learning materials.

Despite the disruption, some teachers are striving to maintain face-to-face teaching by holding classes in community halls, churches, gyms, daycare centers, gardens, school corridors, and under trees, according to Cruz.

On the San Jose elementary school campus, now filled with over 2,400 displaced residents from Malilipot town, journalists observed teachers conducting classes in open-air walkways, a flower garden, a small guest hut, and under tree shades.

Teacher Shirley Banzagales, while holding a math class for 13 students under a mango tree, asserted, “Life must continue despite the volcano. Although we are essentially in an evacuation camp now, I must carry on teaching my students.”

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. visited Albay on Wednesday to provide reassurance to the displaced residents, distribute food supplies, and discuss the eruption’s impact on the local community, school children, and the province’s economy with local officials.

As a country known for its susceptibility to natural disasters, the Philippines presents another test for President Marcos’s administration. The country, riddled with 24 active volcanoes, also faces around 20 typhoons and storms annually and frequent earthquakes.

While visiting one evacuation center, Marcos informed the evacuees that it might be up to three months before they could return home due to the ongoing volcanic activity.

Complaints regarding the heat and overcrowding in the emergency shelters have been made by some evacuees. Local authorities have committed to improving conditions, including the provision of additional electric fans.

On Monday, Edcel Greco Lagman, Governor of Albay, extended the permanent danger zone around Mayon to a 7-kilometer radius and advised people living nearby to be prepared for immediate evacuation should the volcano’s situation worsen.

Despite the serene appearance of Mayon on Friday, government volcanologists noted that lava was still subtly flowing down its slopes, making it hard to observe under the bright sun.

The 2,462-meter (8,077-foot) Mayon volcano, known for its scenic conical shape, is a major tourist attraction in the Philippines, despite being the most active of the country’s 24 known volcanoes. Its last violent eruption in 2018 resulted in the displacement of tens of thousands, while the 1814 eruption led to the death of over 1,000 people.

This report includes contributions from Big Big News journalist Joeal Calupitan.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Mayon Volcano Eruption

How many people have been displaced by the eruption of the Mayon volcano in the Philippines?

Nearly 20,000 people have been forced to evacuate due to the eruption of the Mayon volcano in northeastern Albay province, Philippines.

How has the eruption affected the education of students?

The eruption has disrupted the education of thousands of students. Many of them are now attending classes in makeshift locations such as chapels, tents, or even under trees.

Is the eruption of Mayon volcano causing any injuries or deaths?

Fortunately, the gentle eruption of the Mayon volcano has not caused any injuries or deaths so far. However, officials have warned that it could continue for months and potentially lead to a prolonged humanitarian crisis.

How are students continuing their education during the displacement?

Around 80% of the affected students in Albay towns are continuing their education through an emergency system. Parents are teaching their children at home or other locations using school-provided “learning modules.”

How are teachers adapting to the situation?

Some teachers are attempting to continue in-person classes by holding them in alternative locations such as village halls, chapels, gymnasiums, gardens, and even under trees. They are making efforts to ensure the continuity of learning despite the emergency situation.

How long is it expected for the volcanic eruption to ease?

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has stated that it could take up to three months for the volcanic eruption to ease and allow displaced individuals to return to their homes. The situation is being closely monitored by authorities.

More about Mayon Volcano Eruption

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Johndoe87 June 16, 2023 - 4:43 am

Mayon volcano be one of dem deadliest volcanoes in da Phil, but dis eruption ain’t so bad yet. good ting no1 got hurt. hope it stops soon so ppl can go back home.

GrammarNazi June 16, 2023 - 6:08 am

Dis text got sum errors, punctuation n spellin mistakes. But da info still comes through. Let’s focus on da real issue, which is da volcano eruption and its impact on peeps. Stay safe everyone!

Bookworm88 June 16, 2023 - 7:59 am

Disruption of education be a big problem with da eruption. Kids havin to learn in makeshift places, parentz tryin to teach em at home. Hope dey can find a way to make it work n keep learnin goin.

Linda18 June 16, 2023 - 8:25 pm

wow, da mayon volcano in Philippines erruptin n displacin 20k ppl, datz a lotta peeps! skoolin all messt up, kids learnin undr trees, tents, n chapels. hope evry1 stay safe tho, no injurees or ded pple so far!

AdventureSeeker June 16, 2023 - 10:54 pm

Mayon volcano, such a beautiful place for tourists, but now it’s causin so much trouble. Dis volcano always active, makin it hard for pple to live nearby. Prayin for safety of all da evacuees.


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