Mr. Rogie Gonzales Espulgar, Principal of Bacjawan Sur Elementart School (Concepcion, Iloilo)
We reflect on these experiences because we will be opening another school year on September 13 and hoping that we will be able to address these issues. In Concepcion where we have 36 elementary schools and four secondary schools, 22 are from the islands. These island schools can be reached roughly 30 minutes. Others around two hours of travel by boat. Since Internet connection is not really good and most of the schools here are technologically not ready, majority of our learners were in distance learning, specifically with the use of the printed modules.
I think much of the struggles that we experienced was the reproduction of modules. The schools most of the time were responsible for the printing of the self-learning modules for our learners. And we need to produce in the context of Bacjawan Elementary School where there are 369 learners. We need to produce 369 SLMs for the eight learning areas at different levels and an estimate of 189,000 per quarter The school was only receiving P106,00, so there was really a gap in the schools’ maintenance and operating expenses and the amount we need to spend on the modules. We need to pay for our electricity, water expenses, and other basic supplies. As a school head, I have to take charge of the provisions, bond paper, ink, printers. Sometimes, I have to finance it myself or even the teachers.
Another extra challenge for teachers when they transport the papers by boat and spend an extra amount for this. They also have limited sources of electricity. We are using solar panels or a generator as the case may be and there were also some teachers who would stay in the mainland for days to reproduce the modules and distribute them. We had an incident where one of the teachers assigned in the farthest school of Concepcion. Their boat capsized in the middle of the travel. Fortunately, the teacher survived but nothing was left of the printed material paper and printer. There were some parts of school year when the lockdown happened and teachers were quarantined because they were exposed to the virus. A lot of adjustments were done in the production and distribution of modules. This took us two weeks to normalize operations.
Sad to say, although we were able to respond to today’s educational landscape, our attention was on the accomplishment of what we need to submit. On the end, of the LGU, I would like to highlight the assistance of our mayor, Hon. Raul Banez in Concepcion for providing us photocopy machines and printing materials. I think this is one of the largest. There are 48 schools, elementary and secondary, and around 6000 plus learners that is why there were some issues on the sustainability. It is no joke to continuously provide printing modules every week to this number of learners. Our barangays also donated handwashing facilities. Our SGCs donated face masks alcohol and other disinfectants and somehow this helped support the management of our schools.
Our assessment focused on the somatic test, an exam written every quarter and another one is the performance task where the learner must submit output as evidence of the competencies. Again, we have some issues regarding the reliability of the assessments given. Were the learners are really answering the modules? Whether the facilitators are helping them out? Were they honestly answering the somatic tests by themselves? Were the performance tasks accomplished by the learners? These are questions that I emphasize to our teachers and remind our parents and learning facilitators: honesty and integrity in taking these exams. If they do not have full command of the situation. Experiencing this in the past years, we have done adjustments and interventions in the context of our schools to address some of these issues.
While the department is really working on the quality of the education that we can give to our learners in that the schools stakeholders specifically teachers as front liners in realizing this goal considering the challenges of the pandemic that they are facing today, there are a lot of things to ponder. Implementation of the different learning modalities especially The pandemic has changed the educational landscape especially on the instructional delivery. All our decisions as school education stakeholders, we always put the learners at the center so that, as much as possible, no one is left behind. The quality and equity of education of our learners should be still at the top of our priorities.
I am Rogie, a school leader still committed to continue my advocacy in giving quality education to Filipino learners. At the end of the day I have to say to myself, I did it well. Para sa bata para sa bayan.