Teacher Mary Jake Garzo is the quintessential overworked public school teacher in many remote barangays (villages) in Mindanao. She handles classes from kindergarten to Grade 2 at the Upper Camili Elementary School. Very few children of age are in school. In fact, the elementary school only has a total of 57 students from kindergarten to Grade 6.
Worst of all, there are only two of them teaching in this remote public school.
But since her co-teacher Elsa Amit is the teacher in charge of the school, Teacher Mary often finds herself in one classroom teaching all grade levels—simultaneously.
How does she do it?
“I teach them just in one room. I want to be there in front of them when they have something to ask,” Garzo told The Manila Times.
The trick is for her to assign works specific for the grade level of her students. But inevitably, some students will get interested in other grade levels.
“I would only allow them to participate with other level activities provided they would finish their assigned works,” she said.
In an ideal world, each grade level should have one teacher each. But Garzo understands, even though it is hard for her to accept the reality of education in remote rural areas. So remote that attendance drops to 50 percent during rainy days with students taking an average of one hour of walking before reaching school.
Moreover, the school seldom gets the assistance badly needed from the national government to ensure students finish and do not drop out.
So, the two of them often sought help from the private sector.
The King-King Copper-Gold Project (KGCP) which is working to develop a mining project in nearby Barangay Kingking has proven to be a generous provider.
“KGCP has been providing us with school supplies. We turn to them for prizes during our foundation activities,” Garzo said.
Right now, she added, they have other pending requests from the company.
More community needs
She already mentioned the erratic water supply, the broken down toilets, and the lack of school sound system in addition to the badly needed repairs of their classroom.
KCG has been very active in projects and has engaged the community in various social and livelihood projects in and around its mining site in Pantukan, Compostela Valley.
KCGP is a partnership between Nationwide Development Corp. (Nadecor) and St. Augustine Gold and Copper Ltd. (SAGCL), wherein the two companies are working together to develop the project while partnering with the community to meet the needs of Pantukan. Nadecor and SAGCL are currently engaged in drilling and exploration activities in the remote village of Kingking in Pantukan, Compostela Valley, where the mine is expected to yield 1.43 million metric tons (MT) of copper, 5.43 million oz (168,950 kilograms or kg) of gold and 11.65 million oz (362,356 kg) of silver in its 22-year life.
In just a little over two years, it poured roughly P30 million in community development projects.
It is also focusing on health and nutrition and has provided the town with free use of its ambulance. KCGP has also made available its medical team to residents of the town and regularly donates medicines.
The project has been extending their medical outreach programs in other municipalities in Compostela Valley and has been organizing feeding programs.
But education is the core direction of its corporate and social responsibility program.
KCGP is committed to long-term educational enhancement with a goal of employing students in its impact communities. In line with this, it has sought partnership with the Tesda Regional Training Center in Davao City for skills training in preparation for the construction and operation of the project.
KCGP has been providing scholarships, including housing allowances, to the young members of the Mansaka tribe and Pantukan community so they are able to attend college or vocational school. The scholars were selected with the involvement and endorsement of the tribal council and local Barangay Council.
Moreover, it has also donated educational kits, materials and equipment—including computer sets—to schools in around the community for better teaching and learning. Among the recent recipients of these are Ayan Elementary School, Doroteo Castro Elementary School and Sta. Teresa Elementary School. It has also provided Magnaga Elementary School with construction materials for the repair, improvement and building of school rooms and facilities, and has donated a digital camera to the Gumayan Mansaka Tribal Council.
Handing out free school supplies is a regular company activity.
Benefiting from this is Garzo’s school in the sub-village of Upper Camili, which is one of the access areas going to KCGP.
Soon Garzo, or Teacher Mary, will have her wish for her school in Upper Camili, with KCGP’s continuing community engagement projects.