WITH the Covid-19 pandemic, challenges not only in the economy but also in the education of our learners are magnified.
Adding to the dilemma in the education sector is how the mentors would efficiently teach and help the non-readers and frustration-level readers with no face-to-face interaction between them and the learners.
The Department of Education (DepEd) has introduced the Blended Learning method of teaching but the result of which is still yet to be seen very much later.
However, the pandemic does not only bring negativities in our lives as it also pushes us to bring out our best ideas and resourcefulness to the fore to help ourselves cope and to help others as well.
In education, for example, some schools have innovated programs to help their learners amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Mobile reading program
Like in most elementary schools, non-readers and frustration-level readers are always present. The remote classes or distance learning or online learning which will be imposed this school-year amid the Covid-19 will add to the burden of the teachers on how to mentor these children.
However, one public school in Panabo City, Davao del Norte, thought of igniting the children’s interest in reading through its BASAkleta program.
Rey Solitario, Deped-Panabo schools division superintendent, said BASAkleta is a unique mobile reading program of Salvacion Elementary School (SES) to increase children’s literacy as well as develop honesty among learners.
“BASAkleta is literally a bicycle with books which is parked in every purok of Barangay Salvacion. It is parked outside the house of a teacher, the purok leader, or friends of teachers for three days. A tarpaulin with instructions is posted. Children will write their names in the logbook and get the books by themselves.
"After reading, they will fill out the borrower's card on the back of the book or reading material and answer the prompt line: Ang akong natun-an sa basahon_____ (What I learned from the book ___), to ensure that they learn something from what they have read,” Solitario said.
The children will also personally return the books to where they got them.
Irhyn E. Petalcorin, SES principal, said BASAKleta is part of the school's learning continuity plan amid the pandemic.
“We came up with a bike because it can reach remote places and we will no longer spend for gasoline,” Petalcorin said.
Adding to that, she said the program also ensures that the parents will become partners in learning reading and promoting honesty among their children.
“We also orient the parents on how to go deeper the meaning of the text or story read. And we measure the child’s reading improvement through the reading progress report signed by the parents themselves,” she said.
Petalcorin added this program also advocates honesty as it is a free reading station.
Meanwhile, Solitario hopes that through this reading program, which they aim to run until August, will lessen, if not achieve, a zero-rate non-reader.
Currently, according to the data furnished by Solitario, 288 elementary pupils are English non-readers, while 151 Filipino non-readers 151 in Panabo City.
Learning with a free merienda
Adding to the program’s uniqueness, according to Solitario, is that it comes with a tub of “champorado,” a chocolate-flavored rice porridge, for those children who borrow books.
“This is to add the pleasure of reading books to the children,” Solitario said, aside from inculcating honesty among the borrowers.
The free champorado is placed on a table beside the bicycle with reading materials. A book borrower may take a container of champorado after writing his/her name on the logbook.
Karl Oliver M. Ramo, one of the students of SES and recipient of BASAkleta reading program, is happy that the school launched such a program.
“Ang BASAkleta kay nakatuon ko magbasa ug magsulat kay ginahatagan man mi anseranan na among anseran kung unsa among natun-an (Through BASAkleta I was able to learn to read and write because they provide us with a questionnaire in which we are required to answer about what we have learned in the book we read),” he said in a phone interview.
He added the program makes him more interested in reading books and that the champorado is also filling and delicious.
For him, he wants the program to be replicated in other schools so that many children will learn more to read and write.
Ralph dela Peña, the father of two kids who are recipients of the program, said he is grateful for the BASAkleta because his kids were able to stay put at home even just for a few days.
“Okay kaayo siya kay upat na akong mga anak pero wala sa balay gapuyo nang laing duha, pero pagkakita nila nga nagbasa-basa’g libro ang duha nila ka igsuon napuyo sila upat sa balay, nagbasa-basa sila (The reading program is great as I have four children but the other two are not staying at home. When they saw their two other siblings reading books, the other two stayed put at home and together, they had fun reading),” Dela Peña said in a phone interview.
The first volunteer teacher who drove the first and only bicycle with the reading materials into places within Barangay Salvacion is Warren M. Edrozo. He said the experience was heartwarming because he saw personally the smiles on the faces of the learners and their parents.
“That made me realize that to be a teacher is really our calling together with my co-volunteer teacher Darex A. Nucal. It really struck us, and we didn't really expect that our program will have this effect and go this far,” Edrozo said.
“The learners were very excited, as well as their parents. We received good feedback from the community. Also, the parents observed a significant improvement and the love for reading in their children,” he added.
With the Sars-CoV-2, the virus responsible for Covid-19, still lurking around, SES ensures that the health and safety measures against the disease are properly observed.
Solitario said they make sure that the learners will follow the social distancing when lining up to borrow books and the teachers facilitating the reading program are wearing masks and bringing with them sanitizers wherever they go.
Solitario admitted that the program would not be successful had it not been because of the help and cooperation of the education stakeholders in Panabo City, the learners and their parents.
During the launching of the program, they had only one bicycle, which was lent by the school’s security guard, Gary Montilla, and was facilitated by only two volunteer teachers, Edrozo and Nucal.
Eventually, a cocoa factory, Rich Cocoa, donated 10 bicycle units. Another two were donated by two private individuals, enabling the school now to use all the 12 bicycles for the BASAkleta.
Currently, 40 teachers are involved in the program.
The free champorado merienda is sponsored by the local government unit of Panabo City and Rich Cocoa.
Petalcorin thanked the Pilipino Banana Growers Exporters Association (PBGEA) through its chairperson Alberto Bacani (Unifrutti), Victor Mercado (Marsman president), Executive Director Stephen Antig, Assistant Executive Betty Francia, Community Development Chairman Charice Abellana, Committee Head in Education from Unifrutti, Alfie Colocar, Committee Head in Livelihood from DANA Foundation/NEH for also partnering recently with them for making BASAkleta sustainable.
“Deep appreciation is given to the whole team of Salvacion ES. Teacher on bike, sir Warren Medel Edrozo; on the technical, sir Darex Aguirre Nucal; Mobilization - Randy Duenas Run Dee, Rizalie Duenas, Fe Fe Bajao Exclamador, and Cristina Catubig Sagarino; Food - Nova Bongaos Felicio Lumangcas, Marivic Orboc, Jeanette Ausejo, and Nellie Lubay Hangad; and to the coordinator of the program - Jona Joy Ruaya,” Solitario ended.
BASAkleta is an umbrella of the school's reading program and Schools’ Division Office’s #readingdelights headed by Solitario and Education Program Supervisor Bhembi Gesta Suelto.