LIMAY, Bataan: The Kinaragan Elementary School in this town is one for the books.
The school, located in barangay Duale at the foot of Mount Natib, has only three teachers to attend to the 132 pupils, most of them Aetas.
The lack of personnel compelled the teachers to resort to a bizarre solution: mixing classes. One teacher handles Grades 1 and 2, another takes care of Grades 3 and 4, while a third handles Grades 5 and 6.
However, there is no kindergarten teacher.
The teachers, all women, admit that holding two classes at once is difficult and confusing. A teacher has two blackboards, one for each class. Too often, a pupil would “stray” and participate in the activities of the other class.
“Mahirap ang combination classes. Dapat focused ang isip ng mga bata na kapag nasa isang blackboard ako, para sa Grade 5 ako, at kapag sa kabilang blackboard ako, para sa Grade 6 ako,” said teacher Blesilda Ambrocio.
In a math class for both grade levels, a Grade 6 pupil raised his hand to answer a question posed by the teacher for Grade 5 children. In one classroom, 20 pupils from Grade 5 and 13 from Grade 6 hold classes.
“I hope they will give us more teachers so that we can have one teacher for one class,” Ambrocio, who has taught in the school since 2000, said in Filipino. While many of the pupils are children of Aetas, some come from the lowlands.
“I have gotten used to teaching these children but their recurring problem is absenteeism because of the lack of food,” Ambrocio said.
She explained that the children have to wait for their parents to bring home food.
Edina Adion, who handles Grades 1 and 2, still has to get used to the system because she only started teaching in the Aeta village this school year.
“It’s not like this in the school where I used to teach. But it’s OK because these children need teachers,” she told The Manila Times.
Rowena Santiago, a veteran in the school like Ambrocio, teaches Grades 3 and 4.
The Department of Education has admitted that the lack of teachers and classrooms remain a problem. The government hired 61,000 teachers to plug the shortage but more are needed because of the growing number of students in public schools.
But the situation in the Kinaragan Elementary School may soon improve.
Education Secretary Armin Luistro on Wednesday said P100 million will be used to finance education capacity-building initiatives for indigenous peoples (IPs) as part of the government’s continuing thrust to make education universal and inclusive.
“This is part of our commitment to achieve the Education for All 2015 targets and the Millennium Development Goals set by the United Nations which we are duty bound to fulfill,” he said.
The program, Luistro said, is the DepEd’s way to ensure that indigenous peoples enjoy the right to education that is responsive to their context, respectful of their identity and supportive of the value of the value of their indigenous knowledge, skills and other aspects of their cultural heritage.
The money will be given to 100 divisions in 15 regions for this school year.
The recipient regions are Ilocos, Cordillera, Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, Calabarzon.
Mimaropa, Bicol, Western Visayas, Central Visayas, Eastern Visayas, Western Mindanao, Northern Mindanao, Southern Mindanao, Central Mindanao, Caraga and Central Office (National Capital Region).