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Students and teachers in Masbate affected by the conflict receive assistance.

The Department of Education (DepEd) has provided psychosocial support services to around 1,800 students, teachers, and non-teaching staff who were impacted by recent clashes between government soldiers and the New People’s Army (NPA) in numerous towns in Masbate province.

Maria Cristina Baroso, the DepEd-5 (Bicol) Child Protection Focal Person, stated in an interview on Thursday that psychological first aid (PFA) was one of the solutions requested by the impacted schools during Vice President Sarah Duterte’s visit last week.

“The PFA interventions were conducted in the four affected schools from April 24-27, 2023, for the 1,688 students, 78 teachers, and 13 non-teaching personnel traumatized by the harassment of NPA rebels that typically ended in encounters with government troopers,” Baroso added.

Four schools were chosen as intervention priorities: Lucsoan Elementary School and Arriesgado Servilleno National High School, both in Placer Town; Villahermosa Elementary School and Villahermosa National High School, both in Cataingan.

According to Baroso, five pupils who underwent psychological testing between April 24 and 27 were judged to be “severely” traumatized and in need of constant supervision.

“Since you have been traumatized, we advise that you seek ongoing counseling. Some of the manifestations of trauma that have been noted by registered psychologists, psychometricians, and guidance counselors with a focus on trauma include some students beginning to distance themselves from others, the inability to speak to people even in the community, nawalan ng gana mag aral, affected ang pagtulog, and the inability to recognize the presence of maayos. We suggest ongoing counseling since they are traumatized and fear it can happen again. Meron din pag naalala ung nangyari eh talagang umiiyak. Some of the manifestations noted by the licensed psychologist, psychometrician, and guidance counselor with a focus on trauma include some students starting to isolate themselves from others, losing interest in studying, having trouble sleeping, and no longer eating healthfully. Additionally, some pupils cry when they recall what transpired,” Baroso stated.

The team also observed that the episodes made some students’ pre-existing concerns and emotional issues worse.

Baroso stated that Duterte, who is also the DepEd Secretary, addressed the Villa Hermosa Elementary School’s urgent need for a PHP1.2 million perimeter fence during his visit.

The psychological intervention was given to the students and teachers by the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Service (DRRMS), Learners Rights and Protection Office (LRPO), and Bureau of Learners Support Services (BLSS).

The students received art supplies, food, and the PFA during the activities.

In addition to the four schools that were given priority, Baroso stated that other schools would receive PFA until May.

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