By Brenda Pureza
KALIBO, Aklan – The Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Aklan has issued a resolution urging the Department of Education to take action on school issues identified by CheckMySchool (CMS). The resolution was made in response to a May 16 report submitted by the Provincial Board’s Committee on Education, Culture, Science and Technology. Alarmed by some of CheckMySchool’s findings, the committee urged the board to pass the resolution.
The local government unit’s response was unprecedented, said CMS volunteer Nynn Arwena G. Tamayo who is also the executive director of the Archbishop Gabriel M. Reyes Memorial Foundation, Inc., ANSA-EAP’s local partner. The team, she said, did not expect to be taken seriously because it was the first time for an organization to present a report on pressing school matters to the province’s highest school officials. “The common understanding is, if it’s a school issue, only the Department of Education is responsible,” Tamayo said. But because credible information from a credible source was presented to the body, the committee took immediate action.
This opens up opportunities for CheckMySchool to bring about change at the policy level and resolve issues in schools. Aklan schools, for instance, ranked below the national average in the National Achievement Test. Concerned by the students’ performance, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan’s education committee seeks to find out if one reason is the poor condition of the public schools.
In Camanci Norte Elementary School, teachers hold classes inside two abandoned buildings because of shortage in classrooms. The structures’ roofings, according to CMS monitoring, may collapse anytime. Camanci Norte could have used its Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses (MOOE) to repair the buildings, but the money was used to build a wall to protect the school from flooding. The school is located by the Aklan River, about 100 meters away. Meanwhile, new buildings were built at Numancia Integrated School for the opening of its Senior High School program. But the rooms came with no chairs. Principal Jocelyn Nillasca said if chairs will not be delivered by June when classes start, students would either have to bring their own or sit on the floor.
Tamayo said these problems arise because needs are not identified properly, adding that higher-ups do not exactly know what’s happening on the ground. This lack of reliable information, she said, affects planning in a negative way. Through CheckMySchool, stakeholders are given the opportunity to be at the center of connecting schools to possible solutions. “Ikaw ‘yung bridge (You serve as the bridge),” she said. “We connect those that have resources and those who have the needs and provide a venue for collaborative problem solving. Everybody is involved.”
CMS Aklan started monitoring schools in December 2015 ably led by Team Leader Emelina R. Fernandez who is also the Foundation’s projects supervisor. In four months, volunteers were able to access data from 102 schools and conduct feedback sessions with involved parties. CMS Aklan’s memorandum of agreement already ended in March, but the chapter continues to hold meetings to resolve issues they found during the school monitoring stage.
Fernandez said CheckMySchool has become another advocacy of the Foundation. Fernandez added that the schools responded favorably to the project because the monitoring approach was participatory and consultative, and therefore encouraged openness and cooperation in a non-threatening way. “Sila mismo ang pinapa-identify namin and we just validate. We ask them, ‘O, kamusta po ang mga textbooks natin dito? Kamusta ang problema?’ (We ask them to identify the problem and we just validate. We ask them, ‘How are our textbooks here? Do you encounter any problem?’)” she said.
Although actual changes have yet to be felt, the level of awareness on the condition of schools in Aklan has changed dramatically. The legislative bodies at the provincial and municipal levels are now more actively involved and concerned in the fiscal management of the education funds. Teachers and students have started asking questions and finding ways to address their concerns. Essentially, schools were given the opportunity to identify their own problems, analyze the cause, look for possible solutions at their level and if cannot be met, raise these to higher-ups for action.
Committee Report 064-2016
Resolution- Sanggunian Panglalawigan