Some years ago, I got hold of a film titled, Not One Less. Set in a rural Chinese village.
Now Im watching "The First Grader", about an 84-year old African man who study first grade among 5-7 years old African Kids.
|Like a fern extending its way out from the soil to embrace a wider experience of the world. Thus for me is social education- a process of raising consciousness among the people to make them freer to decide and work towards their aspirations.|
And this has brought me back in early 2000 when I was then an Adult Literacy Facilitator among the Talaandig IPs in the hinterlands of Bukidnon. One significant person I met then was Robert, an 18-year old guy whos never been to school. And there I saw a young man, with the perseverance and dedication to learn how to read, write and do simple math. Robert has become my buddy and a good friend in the mountains, joining me in my walks and my horse rides. I was so happy to see Robert progressed to learn to write his name and able to read from simple sentences to paragraphs.
|Young indigenous children spends the afternoon playing basketball in their makeshift court.|
After our six-month program, Robert was accommodated as a Grade 3 student in the public school. However, he was not able to pursue his education has his family he moved to CDO to find work. Robert ended up as a pedicab driver in the city in order to help support his family. He visited me back in the mountains once, and he told me about his life in the city. So different from the usual grind in the mountains but he remain proud of how he learned to read, write and do math.
These instances immortalized Robert in my memory:
Me: Robert, taga-i ko ug example sa word nga nagsugod sa letrang A (aaah)
Robert (proudly: aaawwwl (OWL)
Me: (hapit nabalintong!)
Me: Robert, tagai ko ug word na nagsugod sa letrang "L"..."eeelll"
Robert: (proudly again) Sir, el-lepant! (ELEPHANT)
Me: hapit ko nadat-ugan sa elephant! (And there, Robert taught me the value of phonetics)
On sentence construction:
Me: (read a full sentence) Ug karon Robert, asa nato ibutang ang comma?
Robert: Sir, sa salug!
Me: (and indeed, I was floored!) Hagsa ko sa salug!
Looking back on these instances, I remembered in the early days of our Adult Literacy Classes then when I told my students, "Inside this classroom, what we shall learn first is self-confidence; that is to be open to speak up your mind and share whatever ideas you have. Then more learning will come after"
|Learning basic reading and writing their names makes adult learners more confident with themselves. Spelling their name, they said, makes them more confident when they vote or they transact with lowlanders in the barangay centers.|
And seeing my adult learners then, both young and old, some even nursing their babies while attending classes while they stand in class to share their thoughts, that alone provided me the motivation to walk to and fro the school everyday, under the pour of heavy rain or under the scorching heat of the sun.
For the last two years, I've been involved in providing access to basic education among the Matigsalug indigenous children somewhere in the Salug River. From a single community school., we have grown to support ten (10) schools catering pre-school learners with the hope of equipping them with enough competencies to elbow towards higher education.
Poverty in the countryside, the distance of the school facilities from the communities, the hazards and risk of crossing rivers and the long walks under the rains are factors that hindered indigenous children to access basic education. It is the task therefore to bring the facility closer to the communities by implementing alternative mode of deliveries as well as going beyond the formal education towards functional and vocational training and learning strategies.
Being a social educator was an experience that I hold dear in my heart, and its the same inspiration why I'm still working with the communities with the goal of providing access to education among the indigenous children. I pray that we will be able to build more community schools in the remote villages of Bukidnon.
Pandayaan kay hu Magbabaya.