Feature: Learning from home, a success story
by Mai Gevera
Davao City (26 June) -- She clears the planting field at day time, sells dry goods afterwards, does household chores and oversees her younger siblings at home.
For a struggling 14-year old Mary Grace, this daily routine deprives her of an opportunity to attend regular classes in the nearest learning center several kilometers from home. But this highly-focused lad finds all means just to continue her education.
A Product of ECE
At 12, she graduated in the Early Childhood Education (ECE) where she got the basics in Math, English, Filipino, and Science. ECE is a major component of the Basic Education Assistance for Mindanao (BEAM) that offered free preliminary education especially in Grade 1.
Mary Grace was among the lucky few who finished their Grade 2 in the nearest community learning center in Sitio Kisawel, Demoloc, Davao del Sur.
During graduation, Mary Grace along with her classmates felt elated for having graduated in the program but also felt worried thinking where and how to continue their studies.
Graduates needed to travel 16 kilometers from Sitio Kisawel to the nearest elementary school, Taguntungan Elementary School, if they wish to pursue their schooling.
Unfortunately, Mary Grace could hardly push for it. First, her finances can't support the daily expenses like the transportation fare, school requirements, food, and other miscellaneous. Second, her parents were never supportive of her studies. Instead, they arranged for her wedding which she strongly resisted.
"Walay kwarta akong ginikanan. Mao nga kinahanglan ako gyud ang maningkamot aron makapadayon ug skwela." (my parents have no money, that is why I still need to work so that I can continue my schooling) she said.
Although doubtful if she could raise enough money to support her school expenses, Mary Grace still remained hopeful that good interventions will come to help her fulfill her dream.
The birth of DLP
Then she heard about community workers visiting the area who told the "lumads" about the Distance Learning Program (DLP) that the said sitio will soon benefit.
The DLP aims to provide opportunity for children in remote and isolated places obtain formal basic education through a distance learning strategy.
It soon reached Mary Grace who took it as the answer to her prayer.
Instead of dropping out, she was among the few students, most are drop outs or out of school youth, who were enrolled in the DLP.
It has opened for third graders who were not required to attend regular classes. Instead, they were given modules on English, Mathematics, Science, Filipino, and Makabayan, using the same competencies in the public schools.
Mary Grace, her classmates in the program, and their resident facilitator only meet every Tuesday and Thursday to track their progress and submit their records.
The learning most of the time happens at home. Due to the problem on accessibility, most students have lost the interest to continue going to school most especially if they lack financial resources to do so.
"Nagapasalamat ko sa modules kay daghan koy nakat-unan maskin sa balay lang ko naga skwela." (thanks to the modules, I learned a lot, even though I am just learning in the house) she said in her dialect.
Just like any other DLP learner, Mary Grace devotes time for all her subjects through the help of the different modules she was allowed to bring home.
During regular meeting, she was never hesitant to ask questions to her facilitator especially on topics she found confusing and very difficult.
When she's done studying, Mary Grace offers herself to be hired to man the store of a neighbor or assist in planting and harvesting. Just so she could have money to support her family and have something she could spend for her transportation every time she attends the regular meeting twice a week.
While sharing her story, Mary Grace held back her tears. In her eyes, one could see the pain of being trapped in a poor family but what illuminates is the strong passion to reach her dreams against all odds.
The result of the Regional Assessment in Mathematics, Science and English or RAMSE was a big surprise to Mary Grace.
She tops the list of the highest pointers in the region-wide examination. "Sayon lang man ang exam kay sige man ko ug basa ug kat-on sa balay gamit ang mga modules." (the exams were easy because I've always read and learn while I'm in the house using the modules).
Mary Grace is a big proof of the Distance Learning Program's success. That even with her harsh situation, children like her can still get the quality education that kids in normal school are getting.
"Gusto kong mahimung teacher." (I'd like to become a teacher) she proudly said. This was influenced seeing the number of kids her age in her own barrio, so thirsty of education, deprived by poverty, accessibility, and lack of opportunity.
But Mary Grace exudes the characteristics of a fighter. She grabs the right opportunities, live with good values, and retains the fire burning in her heart. (PIA with BEAM) [top]