4. Sustaining Gains in Education Governance
Workshop with Barangay and School Officials
Teachers and parent-leaders were very inspired by the very positive results of the yearend assessment test. They agreed that these gains must be sustained and should be replicated to pupils in other grade levels. As this is a bigger task, Principal Velasquez expressed that they need to engage more members of the community to be part of the school’s education program.
Thus, in May 19, 2008, MLQES participated in a joint barangay-school workshop with Magat Salamat Elementary School1. The activity was an opportunity for parent-leaders and teacher-leaders from the two schools to interact and collaborate with officials from the 5 barangays within the school vicinity to develop a common vision and plan for education reforms in their community.
Synergeia invited one of its Education Champions, Barangay Captain Eduardo Tiongson of Poblacion North, Solano to share his barangay’s best practices in supporting school programs in Nueva Vizcaya. He shared that before, education was low on the priority of barangays. However, they were moved to action when Governor Rodolfo Agbayani held a province-wide summit and reported that graduating elementary students scored 38 percent in the National Achievement Test2. Kap Ed stressed that barangays play a critical role in supporting learning in schools.
Under the Local Government Code, barangays are entrusted to implement and manage the day-care program. This was the entry-point used by Barangay Solano in its education reform program. The barangay provided funding for training day-care workers while the provincial government provided each child with a work-textbook. The barangay also invested in improvements for its Barangay Hall, providing space not only for the Day Care school but a resource/computer center open to students for research and study sessions. These books and computers were donated to the barangay by local NGOs and Rotary Clubs.
To maximize their available resources, the barangay also offered free computer classes to teachers, students and interested parents. Another innovation to promote education is the recognition day for graduates from the pre-school, elementary, high school and college levels. Every year, the barangay hosts a dinner for fresh graduates and award medals as a reminder of their service, being role models, and an inspiration to other young people in the barangay. This activity was also able to bring together officials from opposing political parties – “sa edukasyon, walang parti-partido”.
After a brief open forum, barangay officials sat with teacher and parent-leaders from MLQES to discuss what inspired them from Kap Ed’s presentation and how they can mobilize the community to support not just the Zero Non-Reader program but other education programs in the barangay.
Ms. Velasquez pointed out that she was struck by the phrase “family-friendly barangay” as this encompasses what barangays should be – a community where families thrive in harmony, where children are educated and healthy, and where constituents are empowered to participate in its development.
She shared that before she was assigned to Tondo, she had some misgivings about the support of parents and the security in the area. But after a school year, she came to know that these fears were unfounded – barangays in Tondo, at least those surrounding MLQES, were very peaceful communities.
Based on her experience, it was not difficult to call parents to the school or invite barangay officials to school activities. Ms. Velasquez believes that the bayanihan spirit could easily be revived in Tondo if barangay officials would work together and actively engage parents and school officials. Others in the group echoed the sentiment of Ms. Velasquez.
Consequently, the parents and barangay officials suggested programs on how they can make the barangay be an active player in education governance:
- Conduct meetings with parents to know better their barangay officials
- Develop concrete programs aside from day-care centres to promote education in the community such as:
- Buklat-Aklat Program: village reading sessions based in barangay centres.
- Filipino sportsfest wherein children will compete in traditional sports and games.
- Strengthen the day-care program
- The barangays will consult with Ms. Velasquez and teachers from MLQES on the curriculum of the program.
- Work actively and closely with the school to reduce the number of dropouts in the community:
- Barangay officials will join teachers in conducting home visits to parents of children who do not go to school.
School and barangay officials also dialogued on how they can mobilize greater community participation in programs for education. The following were their must-dos:
- Develop and implement a public information program where the community can learn what programs are being undertaken by the school and the barangay to improve learning of children.
- Conduct regular barangay assemblies wherein issues and programs in education (including nutrition) are discussed.
- Conduct an orientation for parents and guardians at the start of the school year.
- For the school-barangay task force to become a model of unity in the community.
At the end of the workshop, the barangay kagawads, parent-leaders, teacher-leaders and Principal Emir Velasquez expressed their gratitude to Credit Suisse for allowing them to come together and learn from each other. They remain committed in enabling children of Tondo become good readers and “the best students in Manila”.
5. Moving Forward
The program is going on its fourth year of implementation in June 2008. Strengthening barangay relations and mobilizing parents were identified as core programs to be prioritized for the year. Synergeia will provide support in organizing parent-support groups per grade level and in building up the capabilities of barangays to take the lead in promoting education reforms. An education summit will be organized and hosted jointly by MLQES and its two partner-barangays to report to parents the achievements of the Zero Non-Reader program as well as plans to sustain it.
As of this writing, Synergeia is in the process of identifying another elementary school in Manila for Credit Suisse support. Initially, a proposal was made for a reading proficiency program in Vicente N. Lim Elementary School3 in Barangay Isla Puting Bato. However, Synergeia later learned that the community is not prepared to do an education governance program (due to its situation of extreme poverty). Former MLQES Principal Ms. Marina Santos, will help Synergeia identify another needy but willing and committed elementary school to undergo the program.