TEACHER Christy Hubac Lucas has been used to the hustle and bustle of the usual opening of classes since 2002 when she started teaching at Pulabato Elementary School in Sarangani town, Davao Occidental.
But a different scenario awaits her on August 24, 2020. The first Monday of the new school year will be extra challenging for her as adjustments and extra efforts are needed to push through education under the new normal.
If before she just needs to show up early to school where her pupils wait inside the comforts of their physical classroom, this year, Lucas needs to ride a boat, row it herself if needed and brave rocky paths just to reach Purok 1 Camaril in Barangay Lipol to deliver modules necessary for learners under modular learning modality.
“Mao gyud ni among buhaton karon para lang gyud madeliver ang modules sa mga bata kay excited pud baya sila kay moskwela na. Kahibalo ko mosagwan pero gamay ra pud, pero siyempre naningkamot ko kay mao may kailangan. Lisod sa amoa pero dili pud mamahimo na dili ihatod kay ma delay ang mga bata, nagpaabot ang mga parents and students sa dropping station,” she said.
(This is what we will be doing every week when classes start. We have to ride a boat, paddle it ourselves, even. I’m not really good at rowing a boat but I have to try it because it’s necessary. It’s hard but we have to deliver it as our students and their parents are waiting for us in the dropping station.)
The 41-year-old teacher, who was born and raised in this municipality, shared that it will take her around 25 minutes to cross between her school to her assigned area. She estimated that the distance she has to cross via boat every week is about a kilometer.
“We will depart from the mainland at 7:30 a.m. The boat can accommodate only two persons given that I have 40 modules put in two to three plastic containers for delivery,” she said.
Lucas is one of the 43 selected teachers in Sarangani assigned to deliver modules on boats to students living in remote places. Her school, Pulabato Elementary School, is one of the five identified schools near coastal areas. Other schools include Mangahos Elementary School, Patuko Integrated School; Camahual Elementary School and Tagen Elementary School.
As of August 12, students enrolled in Sarangani reached 4,575. Of this figure, 2,825 are elementary students while the rest are in high school.
Almer Davis, Public Schools District Supervisor in Sarangani, in a separate interview, said they conducted a dry run on how the new education set-up will work in these remote areas last August 5.
He explained that teachers will be assigned for a specific purok or sitio where they will deliver the modules of all students living in the area from kindergarten to sixth grade.
The schedule of delivery after August 24 will be every Friday. He added that the teacher will collect the week’s modules from the students and, at the same time, hand another set of modules for the next week.
After the dry run, Davis noted that they have observed setbacks in going with this new set-up.
“We found out that teachers should have at least one companion because not all are used in riding a boat and in times of bad weather, we can make sure that our teachers will cross the island safely,” he said.
A rerouting scheme was also identified if, due to bad weather, riding a boat becomes unsafe. A horse rider will be hired instead to transport all learning materials.
“But this is more challenging because aside from it being a long way to the sitios--an hour at that--the terrain is also quite dangerous,” Davis said.
The district supervisor also mentioned that access to a stable supply of bond papers is another challenge they are facing. Papers are needed as printing materials for the reproduction of modules.
“We have a budget but our supply here is depleting since demand is extremely high. We usually source our papers in General Santos City but it’s an eight-hour drive from our island location. Recognizing this, we just created an alternative supply of materials as fillers,” he said.
Davis also shared that the local government unit has been supportive of them as it hired 18 job-order para-teachers who will help facilitate the distribution and collection of materials. His district has also exhausted the LGU’s Special Education Fund amounting to P800,000 in buying printing materials, digital support equipment and gadgets, among others, deemed important under the "new normal" setting.
The education sector in their area, he said, has also partnered with barangay officials, especially in implementing distance learning system.
Teacher Lucas and her fellow educators are currently busy preparing for the opening of classes on August 24. But the real, tougher challenge will be on the days after that.
How will teachers and students sustain this new normal? As what Department of Education–Davao spokesperson Jenielito Atillo has put it, problems are expected to arise after the opening of classes. But he emphasized that the education department will respond to whatever valid concerns that will be raised by the teachers, parents, and students.