Masbate women leads way to light up illiteracy darkness

Group of Masbate women leads way to light up illiteracy darkness

By: - Reporter / @zacariansINQ
/ 06:17 PM March 08, 2024

MANILA, Philippines—A group of eight women in the province of Masbate invest their time and effort in literacy for themselves and their children, which highlights their commitment to a culture of learning in their community.

According to The Asia Foundation, which recognized the Masbate women in time for Women’s Month, the group belonged to a neighborhood parent support group in Barangay Tugbo, Masbate, a coastal town which is about a 30-minute tricycle ride from the nearest urban center.

Government data showed that 40.5 percent of Tugbo’s population is children aged 14 and below, and some 45 percent of its labor force is currently unemployed.


School officials also reported that most residents can neither read nor write.


The foundation said this was what compelled the support group to exert efforts to solve illiteracy in the village.

Despite their education limited to the elementary level, the women embraced the task of teaching literacy with the help of the barangay.

Their initial efforts immediately gained the support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) under the ABC+ project, which developed reading materials in the Minasbate language that were distributed to the children.

A book in their own language helped address learning gaps, especially amid the shortage of books written in their mother tongue.

The ABC+: “Advancing Basic Education in the Philippines” is a project of the Department of Education (DepEd) in partnership with USAID and implemented by non-profit organizations RTI International with The Asia Foundation. It aims to improve learning outcomes for children in early grades.

READ: DepEd to introduce reading program to boost literacy


One of the women, Erlinda Cabarles, a mother of seven, serves as one of the teachers under ABC+.

A  barangay nutritionist by profession, her day begins at three in the morning with household tasks. While her family sleeps, she does all the chores before transitioning to her other pivotal role as a teacher.

Rose Sese, another support group member, said they teach children not just for them to read but love reading.

“We don’t want the kids to read. We want them to want to read,” Sese said.

Sese said the program changed her family’s dynamics at home, allowing her to be closer to her children.

“Reading was really bonding for me and my kids. We got closer to home. Because here, you really have to be friendly with the children so the environment is lighter,” she said.

Another woman, Barangay Tugbo kagawad Maria Cris Cros, lobbied for her district to have a space where children could read.

After attending only a few of the support group’s learning sessions at first, she realized there was a need for a place they could call their own.

Her efforts resulted in the construction of a Barangay Learning Center, which functions principally as the support group’s main space.

For two hours, children read and are free to ask about words, stories, or everyday life. They work their way up on meanings, enunciation, and critical thinking day by day, story by story.

As of this writing, The Asia Foundation said the women already teach 30 students, with even their husbands joining the project to help children.

Fruits of their efforts, future plans

Asia Foundation said the Tugbo support group has earned the backing of DepEd and the local government through the women’s efforts. Cabarles noted that the impact grew beyond the confines of an educational setting.

“I improved myself and the children here around us because before, they would just spend their time loitering around,” she said.

But their efforts did not stop there. The support group members began espousing the idea of tapping publishing houses to print books and the private sector for resources.

According to the women, they envision a future where education is “not a privilege like it was for them but an accessible right.”

“As long as we’re here, our weekends will continue. This will go on as long as we’re able. As long as the children keep showing up, the learning center will continue,” Cabarles said.

For Imelda Viterbo, another support group member, it is the children’s interest in learning and reading that motivates them to pursue their work.

“Our first priority will always be our children’s literacy,” Viterba said.

According to the Asia Foundation, Barangay Tugbo’s parent support group, which helped close the learning gap in their area, is a story of women coming together, supporting each other, and amplifying their voices as literacy champions.

“This community action of NPSG demonstrates the importance of partnerships and shared accountability between families, schools and communities to build conducive learning environments,” it said.

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READ: Sara Duterte: Empower our students through literacy

TAGS: Masbate, Women

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