‘Education is not preparation for life, education is life itself”- John Dewey
Heading to Talolora Elementary School in Tanauan, I can see why many NGOs come to neglect this school- not by purpose, but because of its remote location. We pass stretching paddy fields, seeds laid out to dry in the blazing sun and rural villages filled with naked children playing whilst their mums wash their laundry in large tubs of soapy water. The winding path in front of us becomes a scattered dirt track and we come face to face with our destination.
Rouel T. Pecho the Principal of the Elementary, welcomes us as we arrive, telling us that the school has been around since 1950, and has 4, 3609 square meters under their management, although most of it is unused. This year the maximum total of students that have enrolled here are 137, however the children are crammed into 3 small classrooms, as unfortunately one of the classrooms was lost during Typhoon Yolanda and the school does not have the funds to implement new classrooms for the school. This means each grade is sharing their classroom with another grade, making the learning environment congested and busy. Teaching is made difficult by these small classrooms, as the “space is not enough to check if their working”, says the Grade 5 and 6 Teacher: Primalyn C. Lago. Although the teachers have been trained in seminars how to teach multi grades, the format of the classroom means that many of the children’s focus fluctuates. There are many different types of children that walk the 30 minute journey from the nearby villages to school, those who can’t behave, those “who are really slow, especially in reading” and whom need more attention, and those who are intelligent and excel. But it is challenging for the children to push their attention on the work, when the teacher cannot check their progress and cannot give support to those that struggle.
The Elementary School reaps significant outcomes, even with the constraints and challenges both teachers and students face. Most of their pupils enroll in the nearby high school, some even enrolling in the town’s high school. The pupils are intelligent and are determined to learn and thrive with an education. I spoke to Dyrine G Acala, a Grade 6 student aged 11, who is President of the Supreme Pupil Government, and enjoys being so because she likes to offer guidance to other children who may struggle with the work because of the restraints the classrooms bring. A bright individual with promise, she tells me of her dreams to be a chef, to cook chicken adobo in her own establishment. New classrooms would benefit her future by allowing her to achieve her ambitions and make her incredibly “happy”.
With more classrooms, it could benefit both teacher and student, as then the children would be able to have more of a constructive and effective learning. Primalyn speaks of “elementary school as the foundation of learning”, as really “high school and college is practice”. The students and teachers of Talolora Elementary School are seeking help from VFV and any donors who will be able to aid the school, to help continue and further the education of the children of the Tanauan area, providing an education for those who deserve it, which so many of us take for granted.
Written by Vicky Carter