By: Edgar Alegre
CMS Coordinator Edgar Alegre with a school official looks around one of the schools visited during the CMS monitoring.
Kalawit, Zamboanga del Norte – “The government is deaf to our needs. We were knocking on the doors of the local government for the longest time, but no one seems to hear us,” laments Rigel A. Pamunag, School Principal of Gatas National High School. Experiencing the same situation is another school in a different barangay, Batayan National High School. Years have passed since they first sent their concerns to the government, but up until now they’re still waiting for a response.
These schools have a common problem – based on government classification, they are located in “geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas” (GIDA). Brgy. Gatas and Brgy. Batayan are about 8-9 kilometers from the municipal center. To reach these schools, one has to ride a habal-habal (single motorcycle) for more than half an hour. It is the only mode of transportation available to reach the schools.
GAITF, as CheckMySchool partner in Zamboanga del Norte, responded to this challenge. Our volunteers targeted to visit these hard-to-reach schools. Despite the declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao last May, police checkpoints discouraged us from conducting the monitoring activities. With proper coordination with the barangay and municipal government officials, the monitoring proceeded.
As expected, we heard the principals and teachers speak about many difficulties and the feeling of being forgotten. Batayan National High School, for instance, has experienced water supply problems since 2004. Students had to fetch water every day from the deep well on a nearby community. The school teachers in both Barangays Batayan and Gatas also expressed the need for computer training, especially those who will be handling senior high school classes.
CMS Coordinator Edgar Alegre inspects one of the computer rooms during one of their school monitoring visits.
The school heads tried to raise these matters with the local government, both in the barangay and municipal leve but they did not get any reply. After documenting the issues, our volunteers used different channels to feedback to the local government offices. These offices were aware and previously alerted about the CheckMySchool monitoring, so it became easier to follow up.
In July, Batayan National High School finally got a water system. The municipal and barangay government units partnered with Xavier Agricultural Extension Service to install the water source for the whole barangay of Batayan. The project cost amounted to Php 998,000.00, 80% of which was contributed by Xavier Agricultural Extension Service.
Water tank installed in Batayan National High School.
Our organization, GAITF, also responded by providing the computer training for the teachers. This happened to be within our capacity to provide as a training institute.
Spreading information about the difficult situation of these GIDA schools and engaging government offices to address their needs were a big help. The people in the school were thankful to know there are concerned citizens like the CheckMySchool volunteers who are willing to share their problems.