My usual work as the principal of Malay Elementary School in Malay, Aklan circles around managing and evaluating our teachers, ensuring wise use of the school’s budget, scheduling school events, promoting parent engagement, and handling tons of paperwork. All of these are done to maintain quality and relevant education to all our learners.
On Facing Ambiguity
When the first case of COVID-19 in the Philippines was reported last January, we responded quickly. We suspended our remaining school events like our daily morning assemblies. We also invited speakers from the Health Office to educate our learners about the virus and to remind them to strictly follow health and safety protocols. Having an invisible enemy which directly affects not only our learners, but also the whole community, I asked myself, “Is there a manual in handling this situation?”
March 12th came when the whole country was declared under quarantine. This was also our last meeting with our learners. What will happen with their exams? Recognition rites? Graduation ceremonies? What about the next school year? There were so many questions left unanswered. And as the head of the school, I must rise above the occasion for the safety of my school, my family.
Maslow before Bloom
Pondering on how to move forward, I said “Maslow before Bloom” – education must continue, but essential needs are the priority. In Professional Education, there are two well-known theories that every educator knows: Maslow and Bloom. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs refers to human basic needs, safety and security. On the other hand, Bloom’s Taxonomy focuses on the learning objectives we introduce in classroom teaching.
The school is not just a space for learning, it is also a community that people can count on. Shifting priority amidst the quarantine period last April, we continued in serving our school community by launching the Rice COVID-19 Project in collaboration with We-For-Future, a German NGO, and the Malay Elementary School Alumni Association. Since the majority of our stakeholders are affected by the tourism drop of Boracay, we addressed this concern by delivering sacks of rice and food packs directly to the houses of our learners and their families.
Despite making quick responses to serve our learners and staff, the long-term is still a concern. After several months with no classes, how do we move forward? What will the following school year look like? And as classes begin nationwide, how do we prepare all of our stakeholders for this ‘new’ kind of learning setup?
Oplan Balik Eskwela and Brigada Eskwela 2020
With this year’s theme Pagpapanatili ng Bayanihan Tungo sa Kalidad na Edukasyon para sa Kabataan, Brigada Eskwela deviated from the traditional school and classroom cleaning and repairs to strengthening preparations for a safe distance learning setup despite the COVID-19 worries. Bayanihan is the Philippines’ essence of collaboration and with everyone’s support, our vision of having a safer learning environment is possible.
Rebuilding as a community is better than rebuilding by yourself. Different stakeholders were tapped and donated thermal scanners, hand sanitizing equipment, and protective equipment such as face masks and face shields. It is also in Malay Elementary School that we have built the first hands-free handwashing facility in Aklan. We were also able to produce hands-free alcohol dispensers from recycled materials and have donated some of them to three nearby barangays.
KAMALAYAN (Awareness) Program
Another initiative we had is KAMALAYAN Program, an on-going school program series of workshops which envisions our teachers and parents to have increased awareness and strengthened capacities in responding to the different needs of our school community. The program introduces new knowledge, skills, and strategies in implementing effective and accessible education for all our learners. In response to the needs for modular learning this school year, funds are being raised to provide the necessary printed materials and school supplies for our learners. We also conduct a dry-run of the modular delivery mode of learning in partnership with the Malay Local Government Unit, Department of Education Malay, and the Sangguniang Kabataan to further support the different challenges we encounter.
More than having different programs in response to our current situation, what truly is heartwarming is the coming together of different sectors in ensuring that No Child Gets Left Behind.
From Fear to Faith
From all the struggles physically, emotionally, and financially for almost half of the year, we can easily be swayed by fear and hopelessness. At some point, I did. However, as the situation demands, I came to realize, though helpful, that I do not need a manual where I can refer to my next steps. Solutions are found by taking small decisions at a time – steps that are highly dependent on faith and on things you can control.
There is support easily found around the community which gave me more hope and light in these trying times. Transitions may be terrifying, but with the clear purpose of giving consistent guidance and help to all of our stakeholders, this drives me to be more resourceful and motivated until everyone enjoys the fruits of our labor.