Teachers bring hope to Aetas

BOTOLAN, Zambales, Philippines – Not all tales of children in deprived classrooms are meant to be sob stories.

Here at the Aeta resettlement site of Barangay Tumangan in Sitio San Juan, such scene of depravity has been the source of newfound hope for pupils, thanks to a group of volunteer teachers in the same province.

"Nakikita ko po sa mga bata na pursigido silang matuto (I can see in the children that they are determined to learn)," said Reynalyn Ramos, 18, a volunteer teacher, of Carael, Zambales.

Ramos is part of the initial batch of eight young educators from the United Group of Alternative Teachers (UGAT) that have been sent to the impoverished town through an outreach program hatched by St. Paul University in Manila.

"They are very interested to learn," another UGAT member, 21-year-old Noel Clemente Jr., said of their pupils who are children from the indigenous tribe here. Clemente, of San Juan, also in this province, said that classes started last May.

A total of 21 Aeta children – eight in Grade One and 13 in Kindergarten – currently benefit from the five-day-per-week school sessions although adult tribesmen can be caught peeking as the volunteer teachers run their lessons.

"Plano rin po namin na magturo ng reading at writing sa mga matatanda (We're also planning to teach reading and writing to adults)," bared Ramos.

Nipa hut classroom

Their "classroom" is far from the familiar enclosed space city-dwellers are used to, though.

An open nipa hut serves as the classroom itself, while a bench made of bamboo doubles as the Aeta pupils' seat and table from which to write on. In front hangs a small blackboard, the kind that pre-schoolers use. Recycled visual aids made from "Manila paper" cap off the school look.

But the energy and enthusiasm of the kids – evident in their "chorus" recitals and read along –make up for these poor conditions.

Donald Sta. Maria, tribe chieftain, thanked the volunteer teachers for imparting to the youngsters in his village that studying is still a worthwhile endeavor. As a gesture of appreciation, Sta. Maria said he is offering the use of the Tribal Hut as their new classroom.

Roughly twice the size of the current classroom hut, the Tribal Hut serves as meeting place for tribe officials and elders. With its cemented base, it is easily the most "luxurious" structure in Tumangan, which, sadly, is heavily dependent on outside assistance.

"Ito ang gagawin ko para mas marami pang batang matuto (I will do this so that more children would be able to learn)," said the chieftain.
Fulfilling job

The expansion of the outreach program ultimately depends on the entry of more volunteers like Ramos and Clemente, although both vowed that they would continue to teach for as long as the children to go classes.

"If others like us are willing to sacrifice, then all they need to do is attend a week-long seminar in Manila and then join our group in Zambales. But this is a fulfilling job," Ramos said.

She stressed that teaching is its own reward.

"Masayang magturo sa mga bata at masayang makipaglaro sa kanila pagkatapos ng klase (Teaching the children and playing with them after class makes me happy)."

SOURCE : http://www.mb.com.ph/articles/323125/teachers-bring-hope-aetas

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