(First of two parts)
WHAT can a teacher willing to sacrifice in the name of education amidst the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic?
For Osman L. Paidan, a public school teacher in a remote and small school of R. Sumambot Elementary School in Purok Banacabac, Barangay Del Pilar, Manay, Davao Oriental, it would mean going house-to-house just to get his pupils enrolled for the next school year. And getting this done entails an hour-long walk and crossing two rivers on horseback.
“Lahi ang kahimtang sa siyudad, lahi pud ang kahimtang diri sa bukid. Kami teachers assigned diri [sa bukid] maningkamot gyud mi na mapaenrol ang mga bata. Dili mahimo diri ang online enrolment kay walay signal, walay internet, walay gadgets mga tao. So, among gihimo, nag house-to-house gyud mi. Kami na ang niduol sa ilaha (The situation in the city is far different from the rural setting. We teachers assigned here are doing anything we can just to get our pupils enrolled. Online enrolment can’t be applied here due to a lack of network signals, internet and gadgets. So, what we did, we personally visited the houses of our pupils for them to get listed),” the 25-year-old teacher shared.
Most parents, he said, were afraid to send their children to school this year due to the threat of Covid-19. As of July 18, Davao Oriental has recorded 71 confirmed Covid-19 cases, 48 of which are active, 22 are recoveries and one death. However, Manay remains Covid-free as of writing.
‘New normal’ in education
In the absence of a vaccine against Covid-19, the Department of Education (DepEd) said face-to-face classes or physical learning set-up will be prohibited for the safety of the children and teachers.
As Covid-19 infections continue to spread across the region daily and a vaccine expected to be available late this year or next year, DepEd devised different strategies and plans to adjust to the "new normal" in education--Blended Learning Program.
The Blended Learning Program will involve radio, television, online and modules.
“We conducted remote enrolment nationwide in order to assess learners’ household information, which will be crucial in the preparation and the contextualization of the learning delivery mode in each locality,” education Secretary Leonor Briones said in a press statement.
The enrolment period started on June 1 and was extended until July 15, 2020. Late enrolment is still allowed to accommodate more students.
While online classes are being strongly recommended under the education’s new normal wherein teachers will discuss lessons virtually and upload online learning activities for their students, such can’t be realized in remote schools like R. Sumambot Elementary School.
“Dili magsilbi, aside from walay signal diri, wala poy mga gadgets like laptops or even smart phones mga families diri (It won’t work here because apart from this area remains disconnected from network and internet connection, people here have no gadgets like laptops and smartphones),” Paidan said.
His school, situated in a Mandaya community in Manay town, has 68 pupils enrolled in the previous school year. Parents of the pupils are mostly farmers and Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) beneficiaries.
This plight is recognized by the education department, hence, the blended learning approach.
“Kung di talaga puwede, kung walang connectivity, mayroon tayong mga printed modular materials na i di-distribute sa mga bahay, sa ating mga eskwelahan sa tulong ng ating mga local governments ( If it’s not possible and if there’s no connectivity, we have printed modular materials that will be distributed to the houses and schools with the help of the local government units),” Briones said.
“Hindi pinipilit ang mga bata na mag-online sila kung di talaga puwede dahil maraming paraan na maturuan sila na hindi online (We are not forcing all students to go online especially if it is impossible because we have other modalities),” she added.
Going the extra mile
Paidan along with his co-teacher Ronnel Jay Sabillo and their school head Sharon Ang-Espina have to wake up early around five or six in the morning to get themselves ready for a long walk starting at 7:30 a.m. from their respective houses in downtown Manay to a far-flung purok where most of their pupils live.
“Isa ka oras pud among binaktas padung sa ilang mga balay gikan sa eskwelahan. Ang lisod kay patungas man unya kinahanglan pa namo motabok og duha ka sapa, maayo na lang naay kabayo so magkabayo mi inig abot sa tunga-tunga aron dili kaayo kapoy (We walked for an hour to get to their houses from the school. What makes it more challenging is it is uphill and we also have to cross two rivers, good thing we managed to borrow a horse which we used as a ride halfway our journey),” Paidan shared adding they borrowed the horse from one of their pupil’s parents.
They have been doing this for two weeks since June 8.
“Hago gud kaso kinahanglan kay para lang gyud mapaenrol namo ang mga bata (It’s exhausting but we need to endure it to enroll the children),” he added.
Thanks to their dedication and hard work, the majority of the pupils are now enrolled.
“Isa na lang gyud ka pupil namo ang wala pa naenrol kay wala pa gyud nagpakita ang ginikanan. Wala pa pud namo naduaw sa ilahang balay kay kato ang pinakalayo, two hours from the school kaayo. Okay ra unta pero ang among gikahadlokan kay ang security, basin naay mga NPAs (We only have one pupil left unenrolled because we haven’t heard from his parents. We were also unable to visit them because it’s quite far, two hours' walk at that. Aside from that, we are also considering our security due to New People’s Army’s presence),” Paidan explained.
But they plan to finally visit the house of this lone unenrolled fifth grader this week, putting their safety at risk.
“Wala na mi’y choice kaysa dili makaskwela ang bata (We are left with no choice but to visit him, we have to try or else his education will be at stake),” he said.
In Davao Region, the total enrollees for both public and private schools from kindergarten to Senior High School are now at 1,116,498 or some 82 percent of the 1,358,523 enrollees last school year, according to DepEd Davao data as of 3 p.m. July 17.
Nationwide, DepEd announced that as of July 15, more than 20.22 million students enrolled for the next school year.
In conducting house-to-house enrolment, Paidan assured that they observed minimum health and safety protocols like wearing face masks and physical distancing.
Enrolment woes in R. Sumambot Elementary School may be considered solved but a bigger challenge waits to be addressed as the school opening set on August 24 is fast approaching.
Read the second part, Weighing Modular Learning, of this news feature here: snstr.co/9EH