Will they swim again to school? | Inquirer News

Will they swim again to school?

/ 05:27 AM June 06, 2011

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines—Ten-year-old Asnarul Orim usually looks forward to returning to school after the summer break like the rest of the 200 elementary pupils of Layag-layag, an island village of this city.

But with the start of the new academic year this June, he is somewhat reluctant, hounded by the thought of an early-morning ritual—wading and swimming for 2 kilometers to his school in Barangay Talon-talon on the mainland.

In some areas during high tide, the water level rises up to 4 feet.


“I was always late for school. I could not attend my morning classes on time,” he said. “This is my second time to be in Grade 1 because of tardiness.”


Most of the residents of Layag-layag are fishermen and seaweed farmers. Their children miss their classes because it normally takes them an hour to wade and swim to school.

It was the same reason Orim had to repeat Grade 1 anew this school year. And because he is a regular flunker, he is worried that he may not realize his dream of becoming a policeman someday.

Garbage bag

Sharifa Jamil, 9, would put her school uniform along with books and notebooks inside her bag before wrapping it in thick garbage bag to prevent it from getting wet. With the covered bag on her head, she would wade or swim to school in her underwear.

“When we reach the fishpond, we wash ourselves. We then change into our uniforms and walk to the school,” Sharifa said.

Older boys like Benhur Amirul, 12, would wear worn-out shorts and shirts in crossing the water channel. Their uniforms and other things are also tucked inside their bags wrapped in plastic materials.


“We wash ourselves to clean up before attending our classes,” Amirul said.

Parents have another cause for worry these days because the government set a younger age requirement for children entering preschool.

Ruaina Mawadi, said she could not imagine 5-year-olds wading and swimming to school.

Plan to buy boat

A nongovernment organization has raised funds to purchase a boat to shuttle the children of Layag-layag to school.

But the vessel can accommodate only 20 children and the whole trip to and from the mainland would take about an hour.

Amirul said he wanted to build his own boat so he would not get wet anymore.

“I help my parents deliver water and plant agar agar. If I saved enough, I would build my own boat,” he said.

But Orim said he could only wish that officials build a bridge connecting Layag-layag to the mainland. “We can then walk instead of wading and swimming,” he said.

Jamil said a bridge would also help children avoid accidents, such as stepping on pieces of broken glass like what happened to her in the past. The injury forced her to miss classes.

Not hard to build

A boat maker, Abraham Hadjirul, said a bridge was not difficult to build. All it takes is a firm decision, he added.

Hadjirul said the make of the bridge would not be as important as providing the children easy access to education.

The problem is, according to Jessie Jamolod, a barangay councilor, Talon-talon does not have enough funds to spend for the bridge project.

A concrete bridge could cost from P10 million to P15 million, while a semi-permanent one may be built for P7 million.

“What we do is seek more assistance and support from other agencies and individuals, like what we are doing now—partnering with the Tzu Chi Foundation,” he said.

Day-care school

Teodyver Arquiza of the Talon-talon council’s committee on education said local officials were thinking of putting up a day-care school instead.

A resolution was already passed to seek the help of the city council “so small kids need not swim to school,” he said.

“Until now, we are waiting for its approval,” Arquiza added.

Sara Amie, a mother of 12, said she had tried dissuading her children from going to school because of the enormous effort they would exert just to get an education. “But they really like to study,” she said.

Amie said she could only look at her children racing against time to attend classes. “It pains me to see them sacrificing a lot,” she said.

Walter Albos, director of the Department of Education for Western Mindanao, expressed disbelief upon hearing the plight of the Layag-layag children.

“That is very impossible, children swimming to school, I will inquire first from our supervisor (Dolores) Alcantara,” Albos said.

He said he also was not aware of the day-care resolution passed by Talon-talon officials.

Mayor Celso Lobregat also said he was not aware of any request, but added that it might have been directly sent to the city engineer’s office. “I have to check on that first,” he said.

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As to the wish of the children for a bridge, Lobregat said: “As of now, I don’t think it’s included in the local development investment plan.” Julie Alipala, Inquirer Mindanao

TAGS: flunker, pupils, School, swimming

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