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PIA Press Release

Feature: Her heart beats for IP kids

By Mai Gevera

Davao City (4 July) -- After getting education, most lumads left their lands, forgot their culture, and embraced modernity.

But this Mansaka professional is not one of them. Aurora Aquino, or better known as "Ma'am Au", is a product of home-grown education who later moved to the nearby center to get a college diploma.

After graduation, she stayed in her hometown and soon accepted a teaching position which is paid by the school board. The pay was not that compensating as compared to a regular paid teacher of the national government.

To where she came from

Until a big opportunity knocked to her door. However, it goes with a condition of getting assigned in a far-flung barangay. That time, the Basic Education Access in Mindanao (BEAM) is looking for a native teacher who could carry the IIPE Program targeting the indigenous students in Sitio Panamin, Mabini, Compostela Valley province.

Reaching the place would require her to take about three-hour motorcycle ride passing thru the rock-strewn, narrow road to the sitio school. Because of her tight schedule, she has to leave her family for the school days and visit home only during weekends. For a newly-wed person who just learned that she's a month pregnant, the offer can easily be refused.

However, Aurora sees it as the answer to her prayer. She loved her family, as well as the child that she was carrying at that time, but the opportunity of teaching her desired students is such a blessing that she can't afford to neglect.

The BEAM IIPE sees no better teacher in the medium except her. " They wanted a native teacher to teach the IP curriculum. I know that I can deliver the objective very well and so I don't want to turn down the opportunity."

Even if the situation called for a huge sacrifice, Aurora accepted it whole-heartedly as she believed in the clear cut objectives of the program.

Getting trained

Along with the other IP teachers, Aurora underwent series of trainings to further grasp knowledge, motivation, and strategies in reviving the IP traditions, practices, and attitude thru education.

"It is through the BEAM program where I acquired comprehensive trainings which I found very helpful in upgrading my career," she said.

She admitted that basic knowledge provides her minimal content to be transferred to the school kids. However, constant upgrading of skills, introduction of new strategies, and delivery of helpful materials pushed her to perfect the role as an IP teacher.

Bitter observations

As she spent her first few days in the classroom, it was never easy for Ma'am Au to push her advocacy.

"First, I observed that the IP kids are already ashamed to admit that they are Mansaka natives. They no longer want to be known as IPs," she bared.

That alone gave her difficulty in convincing her students that there's nothing to be shamed of being IPs. Rather, it is a blessing that they need to preserve and treasure for the rest of their life.

She also noticed that education did influence so much to the progressive thinking of the kids as well as their preferences that would usually favor modern and technological options.

"It is so apparent on their actions that these school kids have gone with the times. They have adopted recent fads, technology, and even the modern way of thinking."

Aurora feared that the further inclusion of an IP curriculum to the mainstream Basic Education Curriculum would further aggravate the situation and soon bury the Mansaka culture to the graves.

These realities may at some point discourage the IP curriculum teacher, however, it did otherwise to Aurora as she was rather challenged all the more with the existing circumstances that she faced.

Strategies at Work

In class, Aurora began introducing the IP curriculum through association. In lessons that require examples, she rarely used materials that are hardly seen within the environment. Instead, she introduced indigenous materials as constant examples in her every lesson.

In Math, for example, she has introduced the use of stones and corn as counting materials. "This way, they would have learned mathematics and at the same time know the structure and use of IP materials."

She integrates the IP curriculum on all the subjects that she handles. In her music class, the students get to see indigenous instruments that were usually kept by their ancestors. It was only in Ma'am Aurora's class that the graders get to listen to the different sounds produced by those instruments, what they are made of, and how they are played.

"Why would I teach them how to play the piano when there is no piano in the community? Instead, we make use of what instruments we have. That way they would learn to appreciate the beauty of indigenous instruments and learn to use them", she said.

Most importantly, she tirelessly managed the translation from English word or Filipino to its equivalent in Mansaka dialect. Ma'am Au believed that the best indicator of a rich and growing culture is language. "The students must learn the language and the best way to help them do it is for a native to translate foreign words to its equivalent in the native tongue."

The job was so tedious that it eats most of her time especially in transferring information to the school kids. "I find satisfaction and fulfillment especially when I get to hear them starting to speak their dialect."

The program started in less than a year that is why significant changes are not yet completely felt. But the program has taken off and Ma'am Au believes that the impact of the program will slowly arise through time.

Learning from the job

The IP teacher's advocacy was a tough job. "It's more than just educating them basic education but it goes beyond that. I am also tasked to revive their cultural awareness, and make them preserve the Mansaka culture" she explained.

She admitted that the biggest challenge she encountered so far is the fruit of education. "When these kids started going to school, they start loving modern things, technology, and soon they forget their old practices and traditions."

This observation pushed Ma'am Au for the inclusion of an IP curriculum to the existing curriculum followed in all schools in the country.

Albeit slowly, she noted how the first graders have absorbed the integration and can safely say that the learning process of those kids went on smoothly especially with the integration of the said curriculum.

"They feel more comfortable, at home, and at ease when their education is associated to their environment, way of life, and cultural heritage," she said.

The BEAM IIPE Program has run for a year. This early, it has only tapped Grade 1 students as beneficiaries of the IP curriculum integration. As it has seen the clear advantages to the community, the program is extended to all the other grade levels which will also receive IP integration to the mainstream curriculum.

There will be more IP teachers to be assigned in the hinterlands as they are seen as important partners of development. The likes of Ma'am Au is highly needed in lumad communities to sincerely touch and influence the educational direction of IP students.(PIA XI) [top]

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