Tardiness, absenteeism normal in this Bulacan school
BULAKAN, Bulacan — In a coastal village here, tardiness and absenteeism are normal for elementary school pupils who have to wade through floods or take a banca ride to and from school.
Half of 130 students of Taliptip Elementary School here do not attend classes at the end of each week because they have to take a banca ride to school for P25, and another ride back home for another P25, costs that many parents feel are exorbitant.
These students come from coastal Sitio Bunutan, Capol, Dapdap, Wawang Capiz, Baluarte, Quinse, Pariahan and Pinagkaipunan.
“Often, only 50 percent of pupils come to school on Thursday and Friday,” Priscilla de los Reyes, school principal, said. “The No. 1 problem has been the banca fare of P50 per child for the 30- to 45-minute trip.”
Avelino Valiente, 76, a resident of Bunutan, said many families earn a living as fishpond caretakers whose daily wage come up to only P200.
“The P50 fare is too expensive for a family also needing to buy food for the day. So, many parents keep their children from school on Thursday and Friday, reasoning that it is the end of the school week anyway,” he said.
Some families have their own motorized banca.
But when the weather is bad, parents like Jenette Tuazon, mother of Grade 4 pupil Marko, would not allow her son to ride the banca, often afraid that strong winds and huge waves would capsize the boat.
“We used to have an elementary school in one of the island sitio. But it was destroyed by typhoons,” she said.
Teachers have tolerated the absences given the pupils’ circumstances, De los Reyes said. For the children’s safety, the school has been advising parents not to send their children to school whenever it rains, she said.
“We have tried to solve this problem by asking donors to give us two bancas to fetch pupils from the eight sitios. But the costs of buying and maintaining these boats have become too steep,” De los Reyes said.
Besides, the bancas do not address the issues about safety when ferrying them across Taliptip River, she added.
According to De los Reyes, the pupils also need to be in school very early in the day because of shortage of classrooms. “For example, pupils from Grades 1 to 4 hold classes from 6:30 a.m. to 11:40 a.m.”
Volunteer teachers from Bulacan State University have offered to help by tutoring the pupils in their homes on days when they do not attend classes.
Their priorities, in the meantime, are Bunutan and Capol, where most of the pupils live. —Carmela Reyes-Estrope
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