Guest Post by Justino Cabarles, Principal I (On detail at Reg’l Planning Office) at DepEd Region V, Philippines
How important is education to a grade school pupil? Riza V. Abaño never met American educator Horace Mann, but she lives the philosophy of Mann, who once said that a person doesn’t reach his full potential until he is educated.
Young Riza and six other grade school pupils of Guinhadap Elementary School, were determined to get basic education despite powerful difficulties. The experiences of these pupils, as featured in the GMA News TV June 2011 episode of Education Special, are unique to a number of communities in Luzon.
These unusual children fought the ocean current while riding the waves from Mababoy Island to the shore of Guinhadap, where their school was located.
“Many times we swam from our homes if our fathers left to fish at dawn.” says Riza with a grin. “We also had to swim from school going home. Our fathers usually didn’t come home from fishing until 8 or 9 o’clock.” And there was the usual 30-minute walk through a grassy jungle trail between the school site and the shore.
Ranging from Grades 4 to 6, these pupils had to give way to the preschool children and the primary graders who took charge of their school bags and uniforms aboard a small banca that had to take two to three trips to transport all the school children. These swimming children had to rinse and wear their uniforms after swimming for 300 meters.
The story of Riza and schoolmates reached the attention of Region V DepEd Regional Director Orfelina O. Tuy, who expressed the possibility of putting up a school in Mababoy Island. This idea soon materialized through donations and community bayanihan.
The makeshift school building, which started classes July 4, 2011, serves 128 pupils from Kinder to Grade VI, with combination classes under three regular teachers and one locally-funded teacher. Its construction started with the 5,000 peso donation of Dr. Gilbert T. Sadsad, schools division superintendent of Masbate, and donors from a Facebook group named Philippine Funds for Little Kids (PFLK).
As this remarkable story spread, other community needs were answered by generous donors:
1. Tap water that runs from Guinhadap to Mababoy Island through a 600-meter poly ethylene pipe submerged under sea waters
2. Free check-ups and medication for children with tuberculosis (it is estimated that ??% of the residents have TB)
3. Seventy-six small bancas for livelihood and two motorboats for ambulances and teachers’ service.
This same story is part of the Yellow Boat Project of PFLK which has gained national recognition as one of the best Liberal Projects in a search sponsored by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation, a Philippine –based German Foundation.
One of the boat donors and major project supporters of PFLK, Josiah L. Go, a highly acclaimed businessman and educator, posted this on his wall: “These school children deserve our support. Students in urban areas cut classes to go swimming, but here these pupils swim to attend classes.”
Currently, Riza, who is a fifth-grader (she is pictured at the above extreme left with some of her family), and the other school-aged children in the five island sitios – and those of the other sitios across – are in Mababoy Elementary School. Riza Abaño and schoolmates demonstrated the importance of their basic education by swimming to and from school. Their example brings to all school-aged children on the island hope for an equal chance to get a basic education. And educational support continues to pour in.
Below is a photo of Principal Justino Carbales, who has been instrumental in connecting with key people and organizations who are dedicated to better the lives of those in small communities . . . people who see education as a powerful way to ensure this takes place. Carbales is standing among some of the Yellow Boats that now ensure that all area children go to the appropriate school and also help their families in terms of earning a livelihood.
Philippine Funds for Little Kids: https://www.facebook.com/philippine.funds
Masbate Funds for Little Kids
Josiah Go: http://www.day8.org/index.php
Friederich Naumann Foundation: http://www.fnf.org.ph/