Stranded students being sent home via MSU-IIT’s Balik Lugar Program

by Michelle Jeanne Caracut, OC/OPI

MSU-IIT is kicking into high gear the implementation of its Balik Lugar Program that aims to send home all of its students who have been stranded in their dormitories, boarding houses, and apartments for more than two months due to the community quarantine.

Through the program, the Institute was able to send home more than 150 stranded students.

The Balik Lugar Program is implemented by the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Student Services (OVCSS) and the Office of Student Development Services (OSDS). Both offices are working closely with Chancellor Sukarno D. Tanggol.

On May 16, the Balik Lugar Program successfully sent off 113 stranded students who all hail from the CARAGA Region.

According to Vice Chancellor for Student Services Prof. Marie Joy D. Banawa, the students were picked up on campus by seven buses sent by the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) of CARAGA Region.

Banawa said that the CARAGA LTFRB undertook the mission under their Balik Caraga for Stranded MSU Students Program.

The CARAGA batch, together with the 55 other students (from Davao provinces and Zamboanga del Sur) who managed to leave Iligan during the quarantine, brings to 168 the total number of stranded MSU-IIT students who were able to return to their own homes.

Currently, there are 529 MSU-IIT students who are still stranded in Iligan. This number is composed of 424 undergraduate students and 105 post-graduate students. 

Another 33 individuals composed of five (5) faculty members, 17 alumni, and 11 non-IIT students are being assisted under the program in getting back to their own homes.

Stranded students who are from Lanao del Norte and Zamboanga Sibugay are scheduled to be sent off on May 29, 2020.

“We are now working to secure a travel pass from the Philippine National Police-Iligan City,” Banawa said.

Banawa and her team from the OVCSS and OSDS hope that they can send home all the remaining stranded students before July. 

“We will have to wait for the LGUs of the provinces to respond to our requests,” she said.

The student government,  Kataastaasang Sanggunian ng mga Mag-aaral (KASAMA), is also actively participating in the implementation of the program.

It, along with the OVCSS and OSDS, has been collecting data through an online survey to determine how many non-Iligan resident students are stranded in the city.

KASAMA  put up a Balik Lugar Tracker in their Transparency Portal, beginning the third week of March, where stranded students can provide the required information such as personal details, home address, health details, as well as academic information (degree program, college). 

In the early days of the quarantine, the stranded students received financial assistance from various donors, as well as relief goods from the DSWD. 

While stranded in Iligan, the students were closely monitored by their respective guidance counselors. While some, like those from the College of Arts and Social Sciences were given assistance by their college.

OVCSS and OSDS communicated to more than 23 provinces for the possibility of the stranded students to be picked up in Iligan City and be allowed to return to their homes, and what requirements they needed to submit.

The OVCSS and OSDS learned quickly enough that the sending home of students was not an easy exercise during this time because there were a lot of requirements and documents to get.

According to OSDS Director Assoc. Prof. Sasha Anne L. Valdez, the guidelines to be followed and the requirements needed were also different among provinces and cities or municipalities.

To elucidate, Valdez said that for a student to be allowed back into his or her home province, he or she must have a certificate showing that he or she is officially enrolled in MSU-IIT and a health certificate from the Iligan City Health Office (CHO).

Because of the difficulty in obtaining barangay health clearances due to the lockdown, Valdez said that MSU-IIT requested and obtained the approval of the CHO that it submit instead medical certificates issued by its own Institute physician, Dr. Muhammad Puting. 

The medical certificates issued by Dr. Puting were then brought to CHO which then issued a health clearance for the students that was only valid for one day, Valdez continued.

“The ‘receiving’ province must give us a real timeline as to when they will be fetching the students,” Valdez said.

“It was Dr. Banawa who personally facilitated all the needed requirements,” Valdez said. “She did all the legwork.”

Banawa who was very visible on campus while coordinating the sending off of stranded students said that she wanted the students to get home so that they can be safe with their families.

“The reason why I am working so hard for their return is because I am a mother,” she explained. “I can understand how a parent would feel if their child is away from home especially that there is a public health emergency.” 

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Photo credits: Jonaim Dipatuan, CASS

Topics : Balik Lugar Program  stranded students  community quarantine lockdown