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With mobile pushcart, learning never stops

By: - Correspondent / @leoudtohanINQ
/ 04:10 AM August 28, 2020

TAGBILARAN CITY — In this time of pandemic, learning never stops, no matter the odds.

This principle has been guiding a group of youth leaders in Alburquerque in Bohol province, who saw the need to support the continuing education of children in a hinterland community in their town despite quarantine restrictions and school shutdowns brought about by the health crisis from the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

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The group pushes a cart heavy with books, papers, pencils, a chalkboard, and other supplies for more than an hour to reach Sitio Pantad in Barangay Bahi, at least 1.5 kilometers from the village center.

“We created this mobile classroom so [village children] don’t have to leave the barangay. We thought of ‘pushing wisdom’ to the children,” said Kien Alphe Garsuta, chair of the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) in Barangay Bahi.

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Garsuta, 23, said his team, composed of 11 youth councilors and a volunteer, noticed that children were already bored while on home quarantine. Instead of watching television and tinkering with their mobile phones, children might want to study and learn, he said.

VOLUNTEER WORK Youth leaders and volunteers at Barangay Bahi in Alburquerque town, Bohol province, do not mind pushing a cart loaded with school and hygiene materials for more than a kilometer as long as they reach children who want to continue learning despite challenges posed by the health crisis. —LEO UDTOHAN

Education through ‘kariton’

He brainstormed with SK councilors and the “kariton klasrum” (pushcart classroom) project was born.

They agreed that putting together a mobile classroom was necessary since the pandemic shuttered schools and interrupted classroom learning sessions of children, who had been staying in their homes in March. The town, however, remains COVID-19 free.

“We want them to continue [learning] what they have learned in their schools,” said Garsuta, also the SK municipal federation president.

SK Councilor Lourdes Ungab surfed the internet to look for a pushcart that could be transformed into a makeshift, mobile classroom. She was able to design one small enough to be wheeled through a hilly road but big enough to fit all the educational supplies they needed.

But the SK would need P35,000 to build it, as well as purchase materials—books and other teaching guides, soap bars, a table, chairs, pails, and snacks.

Garsuta said the group had to realign their funds for the project. They consulted their barangay daycare worker and the head of Bahi Primary School for the list of students, teaching materials and guides, and coordinated with village officials and asked residents if they could use a vacant lot for class sessions.

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After the municipal government and the local office of the Department of the Interior and Local Government endorsed the project, the “mobile classroom” started on July 20, with only 20 students. Two weeks later, the number rose to 80.

Garsuta and his group held sessions thrice a week on a vacant lot in Bahi. The class is held from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., usually on Sundays, though the two other days depend on the availability of both students and SK leaders.

Like in a mainstream classroom, the session begins with a prayer and the singing of the Philippine National Anthem and the hymns of Bohol and Alburquerque.

A storytelling session and a 10-minute exercise follow. Children from kindergarten to Grade 4 are grouped by levels with assigned volunteers who teach them how to read, write, and count.

Aside from wearing face masks, students are taught how to wash their hands properly and to observe physical distancing.

“We teach them proper hand-washing because we are here in the pandemic. We teach them how to sanitize and wash their hands,” Garsuta said.

Community welcome

The community, including the children’s mothers, welcomed the “mobile classroom.”

“This is a big help to our children, especially that there are no classes now and there are no teachers because of COVID-19. It’s OK for me to bring my son here because he will also learn something,” said Antonette Pabio. Her 5-year-old son, Jayshine Dave, regularly attended classes.

Pabio, 25, said making children stop going to school breaks the momentum and makes them lose interest and motivation to study.

Kimberly Channel Garsuta, 9, an incoming Grade 4 student, said the mobile classroom reinforced what they learned from school.

“I want to attend here because I learned a lot and then I’m happy. I have a lot of friends here,” she said.

After the sessions, the youth leaders clean the area and return the chairs and other materials back on the cart.

If going up the barangay is challenging because of the uphill road, going down is equally challenging. While the routine is hard, these teenagers have no qualms of doing it since teaching children for free is “meaningful and fulfilling.”

The mobile classroom is ending this month, but Garsuta said the group was planning to continue the sessions in other villages since the opening of classes was moved to Oct. 5.

“We have to learn to adapt and evolve just like what the coronavirus is doing. We need to improvise and innovate, and not put an end to education,” he said.

For more news about the novel coronavirus click here.
What you need to know about Coronavirus.
For more information on COVID-19, call the DOH Hotline: (02) 86517800 local 1149/1150.

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TAGS: Bohol, COVID-19, Education, Kariton Klasrum, Learning, pandemic, Sangguniang Kabataan, Youth
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