As I wrote on Monday, Feyma and I spent this past weekend in GenSan. One thing that I enjoy when we go there is that it gives me a chance to talk with family members that we don’t get to see often. One of the people that I always enjoy getting together with is my niece, her name is Love. Love is a school teacher. She started teaching school in a private school in Banga, South Cotabato. The school she was teaching at was Notre Dame.
A year or two ago, Love decided to move back to General Santos City. She is planning to marry later this year, and her fiance lives in GenSan. He is also a teacher there. So, Love moved to the City, and that meant that she had to find a new teaching job. Just recently, at the beginning of January 2009, she started a new job. She is now teaching at a rural public school in General Santos City. The name of the school is Aspang Elementary School.
Over this past weekend, I had a nice chat with Love, and she was telling me a lot about the school where she is teaching now. As I said, it is in a very rural part of GenSan, up in the mountains past the Airport. Love told me that it takes her about 2 hours to get to where the school is. The only way to get there is on a motorcycle, because the terrain is not passable by a vehicle. Perhaps some kind of 4 wheel drive truck could make it, but for her, it is riding on the back of a motorcycle.
Love is teaching 1st Grade, and she has 50 students. There are only 4 teachers at the school, as it is so remote. Can you imagine, 50 students in a single class? But, this is life in a remote Philippine school, particularly a Public School. The people that live in this area are Lumads, or natives. They are of the Bla’an Tribe. The parents of these kids are virtually uneducated. Few of them, if any, have any kind of job at all. Love told me that the families provide for themselves by going several times per week to the City dump site and scavenging the garbage there, taking anything that might be of some use, or any value at all.
The worst thing, though, that I heard from Love is when she told me about the lunch that the kids have. They have a small amount of rice, and their main course (viand as they call it here) is soy sauce. They will have a couple teaspoons of soy sauce as their main course. Can you imagine? I can’t even imagine living like that. Is it by choice, or just the circumstances that these people find themselves in? I think, personally, that it is a combination of the two. Certainly, if these people are healthy enough to pick garbage at the dump, they should be able to find some kind of work? Maybe not, though. Whatever reason that the parents cannot provide for them, I can only feel bad for the children, because it is certainly not their fault.
Love went on to tell me that some of the kids don’t even have tsinelas (flip flops, sandals, thongs, whatever you call them). They walk up to 6 kilometers (about 4 miles) in bare feet, each way – to school and back home.
Of course, we all know that the Philippines is very poverty stricken . But, when this is shown to you with pictures, and graphically described by somebody who has actually seen it, it really hits home. As most of you will recall, during Christmas Feyma and I regularly go out and give gifts to poor people in remote areas, but when I hear this, it makes me sad that I have not done more.
I want to visit this school someday and see these kids. I am told that not only they cannot speak English, they cannot even speak Bisaya. They mostly only speak Bla’an. Love told me that the first line of attack for the teachers is to try to teach these kids how to speak Bisaya, so that at least they can understand their teachers.
I asked Love if the kids usually stay in school all the way through High School. Her answer? “No, they usually get married after Grade 6, and quit school.”
Love also told me that the school does not have any electricity.
I like Soy Sauce, but not as my main course. How about you?