THE BRIGADA Eskwela brings together a community to prepare public schools for the start of classes in June. Conducted from May 20 to 25 this year, the collaboration pools teachers, parents, line agencies, and other volunteers to make the classrooms ready for classes.
In some areas, efforts are made to check safety and equip the school to respond to disasters and other emergencies. Based on television news coverage of Brigada 2019 activities across the nation, I’ve noted these positive developments.
And one glaring absence. I have not read or viewed any report about the preparation of books and other learning materials to stimulate students, whose numbers have grown since enrollees trooped in for last year’s opening, as administrators attested.
A conducive environment is essential for learning. Yet, we must prioritize content over form for education to be meaningful, empowering, and transformative. These adjectives emphasize important and lasting changes taking place in a student not just while she or he is in school but throughout a lifetime.
Such changes are more likely brought about by examining and updating libraries and classrooms rather than just repainting school walls and replacing broken pots.
It is not to disparage the collective efforts of parents and teachers to make public schools not just welcoming but attractive for youths entering this June. Many factors beyond the campus are keeping some youths from returning to class.
For one peso, one activates a computer to play online or research for one’s homework in any of the numerous PisoNet vendors proliferating near schools and public places. Too many parents and fellow teachers know from bitter experience that Dota rules.
Last midterm elections, I sat inside a grade six classroom for an hour. While in this holding area waiting with other voters to cast our ballots, I examined, then read and reread the posters, aphorisms, poems, word-for-the-day in English and Filipino, and other learning aids. A teacher labored and spent to come up with these classroom aids.
However, I could not connect this content with a 12-year-old seating in this classroom for a certain number of hours five days a week for 10 months each school year. From the perspective of a digital native surfing Facebook and YouTube, this classroom will seem at best like a musty collection of artifacts or at worst, a cell.
In a corner of the classroom was a pile of returned textbooks, gathering dust. No novel nor book nook in sight. Lack of classrooms and broken chairs are just the tip of public education woes. The real face-off is with the banality of public learning.
* First published in SunStar Cebu’s May 26, 2019 issue of the Sunday editorial-page column, “Matamata”