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Retired teacher finds fulfillment in teaching indigenous children

DAVAO City — An evacuation center where indigenous people who sought refuge in the city stay is not a usual place where retired teachers spend their time.But for a 71-year-old retired teacher, teaching children who fled from their homes in Talaingod and Kapalong Davao del Norte, due to militarization of their communities, is where she finds fulfillment.

She was once a teacher of Magallanes Elementary School for forty-one years, spending most of her time teaching her students the value of education to become what they wanted to be in the future.

Gloria Arcenas or Ma’am Gloria to her students continued her passion for teaching after her retirement in 2014. Before she became a volunteer for lumad children in the evacuation center of UCCP Haran Compound, she devoted her three years of free service as a volunteer teacher of Alternative Learning System (ALS) for out of school youth mostly children of banana plantation workers in Sto. Tomas Davao del Norte.

There, she does not only help the children to review but also ‘to reclaim their dreams’.

As a volunteer teacher for the Alternative Learning System, she did it for free.

The Alternative Learning System is a parallel learning system in the country that provides a practical option to the existing formal instruction. When one does not have or cannot access formal education in schools, ALS is an alternate or substitute.

“Teaching is not just a profession for us; it is our passion to guide our children to understand things, for them to have a better future in this cruel world,” said M’am Gloriasmiling.

Her classroom in the evacuation camp is not similar to that ofher previous school. It is hot and crowded.

The classroom is made of coconut lumber and woven bamboo walling to divide the group of children per grade level. Its roofing is made of iron sheet donated by concerned individuals and organizations.

The children siton improvised chairs and tables made by their parents who volunteered to help build the school. They have a mini library with books mostly from donations.

The place as Ma’am Gloria described is just a ‘simple but very important to the evacuees ‘ to continue their interrupted education.

Her students are not the typical children in the city.

On a normal day in school, her children have no uniform and shoes like most students. Their school materials are limited but ‘treasured’. During recess, lumad children usually go to their shanty to drink water or just play.

Most of them have difficulties understanding and speaking ‘bisaya’ making it difficult for Ma’am Gloria to give instructions and communicate with the children to ensure that they understand the subjects.

Her class is composed of Grade three and four children from morning to afternoon,

Ma’am Gloria’s class situation is nodifferent from the other classes in the evacuation camp with only four volunteer teachers available.

She said the mixing of classes is due to the shortage of volunteer teachers in the evacuation camp with a population of more or less eighty children from kindergarten to grade six.

When asked if she worries about the threat most volunteer teachers experience in the community, Ma’am Gloria smiled and said; “Being a volunteer teacher is a noble profession.” (davaotoday.com)

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