Lanao Sur teachers do more than teach children their ABCs. Four teachers from the municipalities of Taraka and Balindong show Synergeia what it is like to be a teacher.
If you can read this, thank a teacher. We have been encountering this statement a lot particularly as we celebrate National Teachers’ Month between Sept. 5-Oct. 5, 2015. But how many of us in the greater metro can say “Thank you, teacher, I had a chair to sit on while I read,” or “thank you, teacher, I had a roof over my head while I did math.” In the province of Lanao Sur, children may grow up saying just that. A number of their teachers are going far and beyond their professional duties to provide their pupils a more conducive environment for learning.
Public elementary schools in Lanao Sur are sorely lacking in classrooms among other things. Pupils who are not fortunate enough to use antique desks circa 1980s have to bring their own chairs to school. Many study in the dark for lack of electricity that one has to wonder how long it will be before they suffer eye problems. While the local government, along with non-government partners like Synergeia do what they can to address these issues, it is the teachers who do what they can to help shoulder the burden for the short and long term.
Upon Synergeia’s site visit to the municipalities of Taraka and Balindong for USAID’s Education Governance Effectiveness (EdGE) program, we found such teachers who stay true to the essence of their calling with their exemplary dedication and not a small amount of money from their own pockets.
Normina Mambuay of Ilian Dilabayan ES
Teacher Normina Mambuay of Ilian Dilabayan Elementary School in the municipality of Taraka spent her whole month’s salary to have chairs made for her pupils. When asked why, she simply answered, ” God will provide.”
Many pupils in the region still have to use dilapidated desks that have long been phased out in urban areas. We even found children sitting on tables in one classroom. It was no longer a wonder why Taraka Mayor Nashiba Sumagayan have been allocating funds and soliciting help from partners for the provision of chairs for the past two years. It is inspiring to help those who help themselves. Teachers like Mambuay are doing just that and Mayor Sumagayan is more than glad to help.
Left: Teacher Normenah Ambulo shows us the classroom she’s fixing up with her own salary; right: Children study in dark classrooms.
Teacher Normenah Ambulo of Pitakus Central Elementary School, meanwhile, shells out her earnings little by little to fix up her classroom, a plywood here, a GI roof sheet there, until it becomes a bit more comfortable for the children. Like in many schools, teachers have to hold classes in the dark but a bit of shelter is better than nothing. Ambulo, like other teachers we met on our visit, faces the challenges with a smile. It’s all for the children, she said.
Left: Teacher Rainima Paingco of Talob PS; right: the rest of the unfinished facilities under a DepEd-ARMM project.
In Balindong, Teacher Rainima Paingco of Talob Primary School also used her teacher’s earnings to make a workable classroom out of a bare enclosure that previously had nothing more than hollow-blocked walls. Across Balindong sit many unfinished classroom buildings like these that were started by DepED-ARMM but have been sitting idle for more than five years already. The classroom has no lighting except for the natural source from outside. The floor is mere earth that threatens to get muddy once it rains and water to seep from the bare windows. The pupils have to make do for now. At least, they have a roof over their heads courtesy of their teacher Rainima.
Teacher Noraiya Abdualla of Moriatao Bae Primary School not only uses her own salary to fix one such seemingly abandoned DepED-ARMM project, she and other teachers have been aggressive enough to solicit help from the governor, the mayor and other donors to secure chairs and to slowly complete the roofing. Movable dividers work to separate different classes while a bit of sun roofing and bare windows provide needed light.
Synergeia thanks Taraka Mayor Sumagayan and Balindong Mayor Mangondato for escorting our team to the different schools in their municipalities. We witnessed the efforts of the local government as well as of the various school heads and teachers to improve the conditions of public schools and elevate the quality of education of Lanao Sur children.
There are many type of teachers and we are proud to have met some, not only in Lanao but across the country, who spend on their students first before themselves, who travel long dirt roads on the way to schools with no public transport, who teach children even inside a dark classroom, and do all of these with a smile. It is but fitting to honor these unsung heroes who are prepared to give their all for the sake of their noble calling.
Happy Teachers Day and thank you, Teacher! Click on the attached link to view special Teachers Day video featuring teachers from our site visits and greetings from some of our staff and workshop participants across the country.