DepEd K to 12: A View from Visayas

Cuizon: Barefoot schoolchildren

Erma M. Cuizon

Sun.Star Essay

Sunday, June 10, 2012

A lot is happening to our education system with the K-12 Basic Education Program officially started in the country. There will be more years of school, like 6 years of elementary education, 4 years of junior high school and an additional 2 years for senior high school students.

People find K-12 an interesting development but we know the problems that come as a result of the big change. Some parents protest in the face of more years in school, thus, more number of years to spend for every child. Still, parents could look forward to find their children in school taught to be easily employed, especially as they learn to be professionals in work here or abroad.

So the news on television is all about the opening of classes, especially in the far barangays where children look expansively to another year of schoolwork and fun. Thus, the story of the opening of classes hugged the headlines last week, and still do---news about children holding classes outside the dilapidated schools or under tents while repair of the old school building nearby goes on.

Some TV stations show and re-show videos of children flocking to school carrying bags, wearing uniforms, shoes.

How about school life in far-flung barangays?

I thought I’d do some simple interview of a 31-year-old househelp. She was 7 when she first went to school in the mountains of Gaas, Balamban. She stopped school in her third Grade; she couldn’t make the daily walk.

Like the children in the same sitio, she’d wake up before 5 in the morning and dress up for the walk to school with other kids a sitio or two away. They’d walk up and down the trail in a single line, and across rivers, for hours, hoping to be in school at 8 a.m. On arrival in school, the children would rush to change into their uniforms left in school, especially if it rained during the walk, so they could keep dry during classes. The children would start walking back for home at 3 p.m. to be there safe at 6 p.m.

In her story, Anita mentioned slippers worn by the children, not shoes, which are too expensive for the family to afford. But there were, and there are, schoolchildren without slippers.

How does it look from a child’s eye? From his eye, the changes in his school life are big in K-12, but what about his slippers?

I’ll always remember a trip with some visitors in a small boat crossing between Mactan and Cebu main land. We were led to a space down where there were seats and from where we could see the seabed through the glass wall. We saw fishes swimming past our noses, and some shells, underwater plants, rocks and more rocks. But we also saw on the sea floor basura, a cluster of plastic bags, broken cans and one of a pair of small, worn-out slippers.

“Sus, duna karo’y bata nga way tsinelas,” commented the woman seated next to me.

And surely, there are school children who go to school barefoot because they can’t afford slippers. Perhaps educators have in mind only the materials needed in school, like notebooks, books, pencils, ballpens, besides the reconstructions of dilapidated schoolrooms, the temporary classes in tents.
But to begin with, from a child’s view, a pair of slippers for the long, long walk to and from school, would change his life for the better. Not the trendy flip-flops, or Japanese sandals. Certainly not the pricey Havaianas. We’re talking here of simple, hardy rubber tsinelas for the barefoot boys and girls in the rural areas.

Conditions of poverty are what children see around them in island barangays and in far-off mountain villages where 80 percent of the nation’s poor live. What government can’t do, you and I can, said a mother. Yes, reach out, miss a week’s coffee at Bo’s and send instead the coffee money to help organizations in town buy mountain school children’s slippers.

Even as the concept of helping children get better education is the main intent of the government’s education program, you and I can also help to consider priorities from a child’s eye.