Kids with disabilities do well in Pangasinan schoolsBy Marla Viray
Inquirer Northern Luzon
Unlike her classmates, Rachele Mae Quirimit, 15, does not use notebooks and pens to jot down notes in class. Instead, she listens attentively to her teacher and tries her best to keep up using braille.
Quirimit is the only blind sophomore student in the top section of a regular class in Mangaldan National High School (MNHS). She is also a consistent honors student despite her handicap.
“She has always been very studious and does not let her disability dampen her dreams,” says her father, Romeo.
The elder Quirimit, now 74, brings his daughter to school every day and fetches her for lunch and when her classes finish.
Her teachers had to adjust their teaching methods and conduct special examinations for her, which are always held separately from her classmates. “The teacher dictates the questions and she recites the answers,” says Clarita Idia, head of the English department.
Quirimit excels in English and Filipino. She says it is important to learn both languages because someday, she sees herself traveling.
Her father blames the hospital where Quirimit was born for her blindness. Born prematurely at seven months, she was placed in an incubator for two months in a hospital in Iligan City, where the family was then based.
“They should have protected her eyes from the bright lights of the incubator,” Romeo says.
It was only when she was 3 years old that she had an eye operation in Cebu City, but it was already too late to save her sight.
Another MNHS student, freshman Joseph Soriano, 14, can be seen riding piggyback on one of his classmates, laughing with them as they transfer from one classroom to another. He was born multihandicapped.
The wheelchair given to him by the school is either left untouched at the security guard’s station near the school gate or serves as a cart to carry not Soriano but his and his classmates’ bags.
“These boys prefer to carry him around and his disability does not stop him from having fun with his friends, like a regular kid,” says Dr. Rosalino Agpalo Jr., the principal.
In Villasis town, Jomari Mina, 14, who cannot hear and speak, joins a regular class at Don Ramon E. Costales Memorial National High School (DRECMNHS) and excels in mathematics. The sophomore relies on reading his books and his notes.
“When he recites in class, he writes his answer on the board. His exams are always written,” says Bonifacio Fabia, one of his teachers.
Fabia says most of Mina’s teachers, including himself, did not know of his condition at first and wondered why he seemed meek and quiet all the time. That was until they observed how Mina interacted with his classmates using hand gestures.
Through Mina’s friend and interpreter, Everson Abadilla, 13, his teachers and classmates are able to understand him. “He is the only one who best understands him, and it makes us wonder too, how he does it,” says Fabia.
Mina and Abadilla, having been best of friends since last year, have set their own system to understand their hand gestures.
But Mina uses his knowledge of sign language effectively when communicating with volunteer teachers of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
“They have been teaching Jomari sign language every Saturday since he was 11,” says his mother, Maricel, 39.
An accident that affected his neck and ear areas when Mina was 6 months old caused his disability, says his father, Roberto Jr., 39.
A carpenter, Roberto wishes his son become an architect someday. “He is really good in drawing; he draws all the time,” he says.
About two years ago, Mina’s parents were able to borrow a hearing aid from a friend, and he was able to use it for two days.
“He was really happy. He recognized his name when we called him, and he smiled when he listened to music on the cell phone, pressing the device to his ear. He can really hear,” his father says.
But the experience was short-lived as they had to return the device. Mina’s parents say they could not afford to buy one for him.
Leah Evangelista, administrative officer of DRECMNHS, says students with disabilities who cannot afford private schooling are wary to enroll in public schools that lack trained teachers in special education.
Evangelista says financial assistance should be given to these students and special education teachers should be assigned in every school.
Agpalo says students with disabilities should not be isolated and instead be placed in regular classes so they can socialize. “Through this system, they would not pity themselves and would be treated equally by their classmates and teachers,” he says.
Idia says parents should not worry for their children under this system.
“Even if these children with disabilities are included in the regular class, they are not left behind,” says Idia, whose school has started a special education program.