Mom, 39, is a Grade 6 student
Rebecca always dreamed of becoming a nurse.
However, because of poverty, her parents were not able to continue sending her to school.
Her heart was broken.
“I was so sad because I always told my mother, ‘Ma, I really want to wear that white uniform, the one that nurses wear’),” she said in Cebuano.
Despite her previous setback, she is ready to chase that dream again by enrolling as a Grade 6 student in Guadalupe Elementary School.
She is already 39 years old.
Even with her age, she chooses to report to school in their prescribed elementary school uniform.
“I feel proud wearing our uniform,” she told Cebu Daily News.
As their first homework, her class adviser, Galeleo Caratao, asked them to submit a short essay about themselves.
Because of the assignment, Rebecca slept only for two hours as she juggled her tasks of being a mother of three children and translating her Cebuano composition into English, using a Cebuano-English dictionary.
Last Tuesday, she was the first one to read her composition. Aside from introducing herself and giving her family background, she explained to the class why she decided to go back to school.
“I’m back in school because it’s difficult to have no education. I’m not ashamed to enter the classroom everyday because I want to learn. I want to enter high school and college, and finish a nursing degree, so that I can help my family and have a better life,” she read as she held back tears.
Her classmates, who were touched by her story, applauded after she finished reading her composition.
Rebecca, the second of five siblings, grew up in the Badian town.
Her mother was a farmer while her father was a fisherman. When she reached Grade 5, she was told by her parents that they could no longer afford her education. With the family’s problems, her parents decided to separate.
She was then 14. Since she couldn’t take the burden at home and she wanted to continue schooling, she decided to run away.
“I ran away because I wanted to find money so that I could continue going to school. I really wanted to finish my studies,” she said in Cebuano.
Fortunately, she met a couple in Fairlane Village, barangay Guadalupe, who took her in as a housemaid.
“Swerte ra pud kaayo ko kay buotan kaayo akong mga amo, (I was so lucky because my employers were good people)” she said.
Aside from working in the couple’s home, she was also assigned to work at the canteen of the family’s construction businesses in Lapu-Lapu City, Naga City, and Bacolod City.
It was while working as a canteen employee that she met her husband, a co-employee. They have three children—Alberto, Felix and Felica. The eldest, Alberto, already finished high school, while both Felix and Felica are students the Ramon Duterte Memorial National High School.
When Rebecca’s employers decided to migrate to New Zealand, they asked her to be the caretaker of their home in Guadalupe and also agreed to spend for her education.
“I was so happy, I said, ‘This is it! I can finally reach my dreams” she said in Cebuano.
She said her employers have been offering to send her to school for a long time already, but she wanted to wait until her children were already in high school.
BACK TO SCHOOL
She realized that it was time to go back to school when a neighbor asked her to ran an errand following up his documents from different government offices.
“He would ask me to go to the BIR, SSS, DAR, but I could hardly understand the transactions, which is why I realized that it is really different when you are educated,” she said in Cebuano.
She enrolled last year as a Grade 5 student.
Now that she is already in Grade 6, she is also taking classes under the Department of Education’s Alternative Learning System (ALS), a ladderized, modular non-formal education program for out-of-school youths.
Rebecca’s exam results will determine whether or not she could go directly straight to college or undergo a few years in high school.
According to Rebecca, having classmates who are even younger than her own children was challenging at first.
“A lot of them will ask me—‘Why are you still studying when you are already old? You are already a mother. You cannot catch up with the lessons. They asked that if I could not answer the teacher’s questions, why should I bother raising my hand? I told them, ‘Never mind. I just want to practice. If there is something that I could not be able to understand, please teach me because you know better,” she said.
Her adviser, Caratao who is only two years older than Rebecca, said he was amazed by her fighting spirit and considers himself blessed to have a student like her.
Meanwhile, Rebecca encouraged the students not to waste the opportunity to have an education because not all children have the privilege to go to school.
“Do your best in school while your parents still have money to send you to school. This is for you so that when you won’t have difficulty in raising your family when you have one,” said Rebecca in Cebuano.
Rebecca also has this advice for the out-of-school youth who don’t have the courage to go back to school because of their age: “It’s never too late..
“They should not worry about what other people say, what their classmates may say. As long as they are interested to go back to school, interested to learn, interested to reach their dreams, they should study again,” she said.