Yolanda recovery: Iloilo schools still under construction
ILOILO, Philippines – When the adviser of a Grade 6 class arrived in Islas de Gigantes – a one-and-a-half hour pump boat ride away from mainland Carles in northern Iloilo ravaged by Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) – she expected that her classes will be conducted inside a classroom.
Cherry Gold Aguirre, 26, found herself teaching English to her students under a study shed that becomes too hot in the afternoon.
A newly assigned teacher in Granada Elementary School, she observed that because of the extreme heat since classes opened in June 2, her students would frequently buy iced water in the nearby store.
Her students are crowded in one concrete table, with 3x3 meters of concrete benches and galvanized iron sheet roofs that only worsens the heat.
In addition to the heat, her 44 students do not have desks and chairs but Cherry still encourages them to go to school so they can finish their studies and get good-paying jobs someday.
Stephen Pacsat is already 17 years old but he is only in Grade 6 in Granada Elementary school. He quit school for 3 years to join his father in fishing – their only source of income.
He wanted to study, but he could not say no to his parents.
Stephen dreams of becoming a doctor and his favorite subject is English, which Cherry teaches.
Passion for teaching
Cherry said she pities the students as she sees them having a hard time concentrating under the heat.
She felt helpless as she sees her students perspiring. She could hardly control her tears as she narrated the struggles of adjustment in the school’s first opening days.
“Kung wala ka love sa mga kids, hindi mo gid mabatas magtudlo sa ila. Kung wala ka passion sa teaching, indi kamaka-sacrifice. Antuson mo na lang,” Cherry said.
(If you don’t love the kids, you cannot continue teaching. If you don’t have a passion for teaching, you can’t sacrifice. You really have to endure.)
The district supervisor of Carles, Lynie Chavez, said that the Department of Education (DepEd) has already been informed of the conditions in the schools ravaged by Yolanda.
“We can’t do anything about it. We can only wait. This is more of a waiting game,” Chavez explained.
“Asta san-o kami maghulat (How long are we going to wait)?” Cherry asked.
With the school's population of 635 students, Lourdes Alarde, Head Teacher II, has already converted her office into a room for kinder students.
Cherry is just one of the helpless teachers in Islas de Gigantes who are waiting for DepEd to complete the school building which started construction in February 2014. The building remains under construction as of writing. (READ: New classrooms in Yolanda-hit areas ready by end-2014)
One class uses the unfinished school building in spite of jutted steel rods protruding from the wall that could harm to the children.
Priscilla Diskaya, 33-year-old mother, who was waiting for the distribution of starter kits filled with school supplies by Save the Children, a non-government organization, shared that her only wish for her 4 children is for them to finish their elementary education.
Save the Children disseminated information regarding children’s rights to both parents and children. One of the missions of the organization is to create a safe, quality and resilient learning environment for all children in need.
It also partnered with the schools affected by Yolanda to deliver aid especially to families with children badly in need of help.
As helpless as the school heads and the teachers are with their situation, Cherry said that education is very important as it is a tool to alleviate poverty. She herself experienced how hard it is to get an education with only limited resources.
But she never gave up on her childhood dream to become a teacher. Now, she inspires her students to do the same. – Rappler.com
Alfred John Tayona is a volunteer writer and social media team member of Typhoon Yolanda Story Hub Visayas, a network of veteran journalists, student writers, mobile journalists, and photographers based in Iloilo City, Panay Island, central Philippines formed in November 2013 in the aftermath of Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan).