“Most of our students are children of garbage collectors, pedicab drivers, magbobote or mangangalakal. Many of them go to school without eating.” — Anne Besin, public school teacher
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – They are not only teachers, they are also second parents to their students. It’s a duty that many public school teachers fulfill and take to heart. Despite their low and insufficient salary, many teachers manage to help their poor students so that they could continue with their studies.
Like Anne Besin, a 25-year-old teacher who may be single but already has many children.
Besin is a “mother” to a number of students in Antonio J. Villegas Vocational High School, located near Vitas and Baseco compound in Tondo, Manila where the Smokey Mountain dumpsite used to stand. In this area, people make a living gathering recyclable trash.
Unlike young professionals who dream of working in top companies, Besin chose to teach in a public school even though she knew that the facilities are dilapidated, there is lack of teaching materials and textbooks, and classes are oversized with more than 40 students.
Although she has just started teaching, Besin is keen in helping her students.
“Most of our students are children of garbage collectors, pedicab drivers, mag-bobote or mangangalakal. Many of them go to school without eating,” Besin told Bulatlat.com in an interview.
Public school teachers interviewed by Bulatlat.com cited an increasing number of students who come to school hungry. This despite the increased budget for the Conditional Cash Transfer Program, President Aquino’s poverty alleviation program, where the beneficiaries’ children have allocation for education.
“In my class for example, only a few children are covered by the 4Ps (Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program). So students who are really poor are really coming to school without eating breakfast or lunch.
They don’t even have uniforms and school supplies,” said Celia Tan, 36, a grade four teacher in Putatan Elementary School in Muntinlupa.
Despite having no salary increase for years already, teachers could not bear seeing their students suffer, so they do what they can to help. Besin brings additional rice or viand to share with her students.
“When I see them in the corridors, I ask if they have already eaten. I share with them the food that I have so that they don’t have to skip school,” Besin said.
Charito Tamondong, a fourth year high school teacher at the Malabon National High School said she helps her students who skip classes because they don’t have snacks or packed lunch. “I tell them, if that’s the only problem, I will help them. I tell them how important education is and not having snacks or money for transportation fare is not a hindrance to fulfill their dreams.”
She said that she is a mother too, and she wants her children to finish their education. She also dreams the same for her students.
While she has a son who is still in college, Tamondong said, she does not mind helping her students even if she shells out from her own pocket. “I just can’t take that reasoning (not having school allowance) because there are ways. As long as I can help them, I will.”
Aracelli De Ocampo, 63 years old, a kindergarten teacher in L. Geronimo Elementary School in Manila said that because of severe poverty, more and more students are coming to school without snacks. Although there is a feeding program in public schools, she said, it only covers about 20 students who are underweight. De Ocampo said the reality is that there are a lot more underweight children but the program’s budget is not enough to feed them all.
“That is why I tell the mother if the only problem is snacks, bring their children to school and I will take care of their snacks in school,” she told Bulatlat.com.
Tan for her part, had pledged to help one student who “has nothing.”
“On the first day of school, I noticed this one student of mine who was not excited, unlike other students. I asked him why and what his problem was and he said that he has not yet eaten lunch.”
The boy, Tan said, has seven siblings. His mother is working as a helper who earns P2,500 a month ($56) and his father had left them. When Tan visited their place, she saw his eight-month-old brother lying in a carton, while he and his siblings were just waiting for their mother to come home. “They have nothing. Whatever leftover they had for dinner will be their breakfast and lunch the next day.”
Being a mother herself, Tan asked her co-teachers for donations for her student as well as the parents. “He is a good student. He is polite. And I just cannot take it that he will stop studying because of poverty.”
It is not only food that these teachers provide for poor students but also school supplies. “I go to Divisoria every school year to buy Manila paper and markers in bulk for my students,” Besin said adding that the money she uses for the supplies come from her own pocket.
Tan said she too has her own family and her salary is not enough to help her students and, at the same time, provide for her family. Her husband a mechanic also has a meager income. “I said I cannot do this alone, that is why I applied for his (the student’s) scholarship with the local government.” She said she believes that it is the government’s responsibility to help these students and provide scholarships for them.
She also said the government should also provide jobs for parents of these poor students. “If only there are jobs, then maybe no student has to drop out of school because they have no money.”
“The government has to uplift people’s lives,” said De Ocampo. The government’s dole out program, such as 4Ps, had apparently not helped them, she added.
For Besin, the young teacher who has already dedicated her life to teaching and helping her students, the government should be responsible enough to give what is due them.