Stories of Change


Ako’y Isang Bangkero

 May 10, 2018    

Mr. Lucman Nacob

 

Story contributed by Mr. Lucman Nacob, principal of Guntong Elementary School, Midsayap, North Cotabato. Mr. Nacob’s story is written in Filipino. An English translation follows.

 

 

29243492_1694572233964450_727691417_o Maingat na nagsasagwan ang bangkerong punong-guro na naghahatid-sundo sa mga mag-aaral ng Guntong ES sa Midsayap, North Cotabato. Kuha ang litrato noong 2011.

 

MIDSAYAP, NORTH COTABATO — Isa sa mga pangarap ko sa buhay ay magkaroon nang masayang pamumuhay ang mga mamamayan ng Brgy. Guntong, Midsayap. Ngunit isang malaking hadlang sa pangarap na ito ang patuloy na pakikidigma ng mga rebeldeng grupo, tulad ng Moro Islamic Liberation Front o MILF, laban sa gobyerno. Dahil dito, maraming pamilya na ang nawalan ng tirahan. Bilang isang guro, ang pinakamasakit na dulot ng digmaan ay ang pagkawala ng kalayaan ng mga bata na makapag-aral nang mapayapa. Rinig namin sa aming mga silid-aralan ang putukan nang makasagupa ng Bangsamoro Islamic Liberation Front (BILF) ang Philippine National Police Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) sa Masasapano, taon 2015.

 

(Read the story of one volunteer in North Cotabato: I am a volunteer in conflict-stricken Mindanao)

 

Sa kabila ng malaking suliranin na ito, may mas malaking digmaan ang hinarap ng aming paaralan sa loob ng ilang taon.

 

Ang Guntong Elementary School ay nakatayo malapit sa ikalawang pinakamalaking river system sa buong Pilipinas na kung tawagin ay Rio Grande de Mindanao. Upang makapasok sa eskwela ang aming mag-aaral, pati na rin ang mga guro, kailangang sumakay ng bangka. Bukod sa luma na ang mga bangka sa aming lugar, mahal din ang singil sa pamasahe. Mahihirap na pamilyang Muslim ang nakatira sa Guntong; pangkain at hindi gastusin sa pag-aaral ang kanilang prayoridad sa araw-araw. Dahil dito, mataas ang aming drop-out rate at absenteeism.

 

 

28378801_10155415293727883_6007306886791246953_n Ang mga guro ng Guntong ES ay nabigyan ng isang bangka na de-motor upang mas mabilis silang makarating sa paaralan.

 

Nagbigay ng isang bangka na de-sagwan ang munisipyo ng Midsayap para sa Guntong ES noong 2008. Ako na ang nagboluntaryo na maging bangkero. Sabi ng aking mga guro, iutos ko na lang ito sa iba, pero para sa akin, bilang punong-guro, ako ang direktang may responsibilidad kung mayroong masamang mangyari sa kanila habang tinatawid ang ilog.

 

Alas-6 nang umaga ang simula ng aming byahe. Inuuna kong itawid ang mga bata na nakatira malapit sa paaralan. Sinisikap namin na makarating nang alas-7 para sa flag ceremony. Pakatapos ng klase sa hapon, magsasagwan ulit ako upang ihatid sila pauwi. Libre naming binigay ang serbisyo na ito upang mahikayat ang mga magulang na suportahan ang pag-aaral ng mga bata. Katulong ko naman ang aking mga guro sa pag-ipon ng pera para sa maintenance ng bangka.

 

Bumuti ang aming attendance rate at ito na ang aming naging ‘best practice’ sa loob ng siyam na taon. Ngunit aaminin ko na may mga beses na parang susuko na kami, dahil sa gulo at dahil na rin sa pagod. Maliit lamang ang sahod namin. May mga pamilya rin kami na umaasa sa amin. Ngunit sa bawat pag-alis namin sa Guntong, bumabalik at bumabalik pa rin kami.
Hindi namin matiis na iwanan ang mga bata. Tulad namin, natatakot at napapagod na rin sila, pero patuloy pa rin silang naghihintay sa bangka na maghahatid sa kanila sa paaralan. Ramdam ko ang pagnanais nilang matuto.

 

 

28576617_10155415294927883_4561871728704724457_n Ang mga magulang na nagboluntaryo na maging mga bangkero na maghahatid sa mga bata sa paaralan.

 

Napakalaking tulong ang naibahagi ng CheckMySchool (CMS). Laging pumupunta sa aming paaralan si Ramel Palapo ng CMS simula pa ng taong 2011. Naramdaman namin na tunay syang nagmamalasakit sa school. Ipinaabot namin ni Ramel sa iba’t-ibang ahensya ng gobyerno, lalo na sa Division Office ang aming kalagayan sa Guntong. Nakailang sulat kami sa mga ahensya na pwede namin mahingian ng tulong, ngunit kakulangan sa budget ang madalas na dahilan kung bakit hindi nila kami matulungan.

 

Taon 2017, tumugon sa aming pangangailangan ang Yellow Boat Foundation, Inc. Sa isa sa mga pagbisita ni Ramel, kasama na nya ang Yellow Boat Foundation na biniyayaan kami ng 50 na bangka na de-sagwan. Nagbigay rin sila ng isang bangka na de-motor para sa mga guro. Nahikayat rin namin ang mga magulang na magsilbing bangkero ng mga bata.

 

Nakita naming mga guro ang magandang epekto ng maraming bangka. Ang participation rate at attendance ay tumaas. Nakakagulat rin ang pagtaas ng aming enrollees. Higit sa lahat, nagkaroon ng aktibong partisipasyon ang mga magulang sa paaralan.

 

Ang pakiramdam ko ay parang umangat ang aming paaralan na para bang hatid ng mga bangka ang pag-asa sa aming mga puso upang ipagpatuloy ang aming nasimulan.

 

Salamat sa Yellow Boat Foundation sa pagtugon sa aming pangangailangan. Salamat sa CMS, kay Sir Ramel Palapo, na naging kasangkapan para makamit namin ang biyaya na ito. Salamat rin sa aking mga guro, sa kanilang pagiging matapat sa kanilang sinumpaang tungkulin sa kabila ng maraming pagsubok.

 

Habang buhay ko itong ipagpapasalamat kay Allah.

 

 

I am a boatman

(Translation by Eric Santos)

 

One of my dreams is that the residents of Barangay Guntong in Midsayap live a happy life. But a big obstacle to this dream is the continued conflict between rebel groups, such as the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), and the government. This has resulted in the loss of homes for many families. As a teacher, the most painful effect of this war is the loss of children’s freedom to go to school in a peaceful community. From our classrooms, we heard the gunfire from the battle between the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and Philippine National Police Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) in Mamasapano in 2015.

 

While the armed conflict is a huge problem, our school has for several years been fighting a bigger battle.

 

Guntong Elementary School is located near Rio Grande de Mindanao, the second largest river system in the Philippines. To reach the school, students as well as teachers have to ride a bangka (small boat). These boats are old and worn out, and the boat fare is quite expensive. The residents of Guntong are poor Muslim families whose daily priority is putting food on the table, not spending on education. This is why our school has high dropout rate and absenteeism.

 

In 2008, the Midsayap municipal government donated one oar-driven boat to Guntong Elementary School. I volunteered to be the boatman. My co-teachers asked me to assign the task to someone else but as the principal I felt that it was my responsibility to personally ensure the safety of boat passengers crossing the river to reach the school.

 

Our boat trip starts at 6 in the morning. I take children living near the school across the river first. We try to reach the school by 7 AM for the flag ceremony. After classes in the afternoon, I start rowing again to bring the students home. We provide the boat rides for free to encourage parents to support their children’s education. My co-teachers help me gather funds to keep the boat in good condition.

 

Our students’ school attendance has improved, thanks to the free boat rides, which have become our best practice for the last nine years. But I must confess that there were times when I wanted to give up, because of the armed conflict as well as due to sheer exhaustion. As teachers, we receive modest pay and we have families of our own to support. But every time we leave Guntong, we always come back. We cannot bear to abandon our students. Like us, they too get scared and tired, but they continue to wait for the boat that will take them to their school. I feel their desire to learn.

 

CheckMySchool has been a great help to us. Ramel regularly visited our school since 2011. We felt his genuine concern to our school. With his help, we informed different government agencies, particularly the Department of Education Cotabato Division, about our situation in Guntong. We wrote various agencies several times to seek assistance, but they always cited lack of budget to help us.

 

In 2017, the Yellow Boat Foundation, Inc. responded to our need. During one of Ramel’s visits, he brought along members of the Yellow Boat Foundation, which donated 50 oar-driven boats to our school and a motorized boat for our teachers. We eventually convinced the parents to serve as boatmen for our students.

 

My teachers and I have seen the positive effect of the many boats donated to our school. Participation and attendance rates have increased. We were also surprised by the increase in the number of enrollees in our school. Most importantly, the parents of our students have become more involved in school activities.

 

I feel like our school has been lifted up, as if the boats brought hope to our hearts and motivated us to continue what we had started.

 

Thank you to the Yellow Boat Foundation for addressing our needs. Thank you to CMS and Ramel who served as instruments that enabled the school to receive these blessings. Thank you as well to my co-teachers who remained true to their sworn duty despite the many trials.

 

For these blessings, I am forever grateful to Allah.

 

 

POSTSCRIPT: Last March 1, 2018, in a conversation with CMS project head, Dondon Parafina, Mr. Nacob said he is worried about the children’s safety when they cross the river. To address this, he wished to get lifejackets for the children. Dondon, through his social media account, asked for donations and received PHP51,094.00. The money was used to buy requested lifejackets and for other needs. Before school opens in June, these will be sent to the North Cotabato Division Office, which will transport the donations to the school children of Guntong ES.

 

 


If there’s any issue, problem or anything that you think needs improvement in your school, let us know if CMS can help. Go to  http://www.checkmyschool.org/cms-can-help/.

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