Brigada Eskwela 2022: BAN Toxics pushes for toxic-free, waste-free schools 

In time for the yearly Brigada Eskwela of the Department of Education (DepEd), toxic and waste watchdog group BAN Toxics partnered with San Antonio Elementary School (SAES) in Quezon City to launch a toxic-free and waste-free school campaign for a healthy and safe school environment. 

The Brigada Eskwela’s theme for this year is “Tugon sa Hamon ng Ligtas na Balik-Aral.”

Attended by almost 500 students, teachers, parents and nearby communities, BAN Toxics teamed up with SAES and with barangay officials and private institutions to raise awareness on the importance of toxic- and waste-pollution prevention in school and at home.

The organization emphasized the need for a Toxics-Free School Program (TFSP) to mainstream school-based environment awareness, programs, and policies to prevent toxic and waste pollution during the week-long cleanup, repair, and renovation of school facilities.

“We partnered with BAN Toxics and other stakeholders for this year’s Brigada Eskwela to promote a safe and healthy environment for our students and teachers,” said SAES Principal Antonio Miranda.

At the Brigada Eskwela launch, BAN Toxics raised public awareness about the different toxic chemicals that can be found in school and at home. They also spoke about the existing environmental policies of the DepEd toward promoting a toxic-free and waste-free Brigada Eskwela.

Moreover, the program seeks to promote safe and environment-friendly alternatives as well as to engage the school and the community on proper sound chemicals and wastes management.

“The TFSP campaign is a collaborative effort of civil society organizations, schools, private institutions, local officials, and communities. We need the support of every stakeholder to develop a common goal of ensuring a safe and healthy environment for the students and teachers, and promote toxic-free and waste-free schools and communities.” said Thony Dizon, Toxics Campaigner of BAN Toxics.

The hazardous chemicals that might be found in school—include lead, mercury, phthalates, cadmium and arsenic. Exposure to these chemicals pose serious health risks to children.

The program also promotes proper and sound waste management both in school and at home. This includes proper waste segregation, implementing the 3Rs—reduce, reuse and recycle, urban gardening and composting, and minimization of single-use plastics usage.

As a part of their efforts to promote environmentalism, the DepEd issued DepEd Order 52, s. 2011 to strengthen environmental education in both public and private schools.

The order sought to integrate environmentalism in science subjects and encourage school activities to promote students’ participation in environmental activities. 

As a part of the program, a memorandum of understanding was signed by BAN Toxics and SAES to promote the Toxics-Free Schools Program.

The MOU streamlines the Department of Environment and Natural Resources Administrative Order 2013-24 (DAO 2013-24), DepEd Memorandum 85, s. 2016, and DepEd Order 5, s. 2014. 

DAO 2013-24, or the “Chemical Control Order for Lead and Lead Compounds,” prohibits the use of lead and lead compounds in the production and manufacture of food and drink packaging, fuel additives, water pipes, toys, school supplies, cosmetics and paint.

DepEd Memorandum 85, s. 2016, or the “Use of Lead-Free Paints in Schools,” compels schools to only use lead-free paint to protect the students and teachers from the adverse effects of the chemical.

DepEd Memorandum 5, s. 2014, or the “Implementing Guidelines on the Integration of Gulayan sa Paaralan, Solid Waste Management and Tree Planting Under the National Greening Program,” encourages schools to integrate gulayan sa paaralan, ecological solid waste management, and tree planting and caring in their programs with the goal of poverty reduction, food security, biodiversity conservation and climate mitigation and adaptation.

“We hope more schools will follow the footsteps of [SAES] in protecting the students and teachers from toxics and waste. A safe balik eskwela should also mean that the students and teachers are also safe from the adverse effects of chemicals and garbage,” BAN Toxics added. 

BAN Toxics and SAES culminated the event by conducting a clean-up drive within the school vicinity, as well as repairing school facilities. 

Image credits: Ban Toxics