In Zamboanga, Badjao community longs for real classrooms
ZAMBOANGA CITY — On June 4, the first day of school, Napsa Jimlani, 45, did not open her small sari-sari (variety) store at Buggoc Transitory Site in Barangay Sta. Catalina here, where more than 200 Badjao families were staying. Instead, the mother of 14 children spent her time preparing her four youngest children and a grandson for school.
“They are my light and hope,” she said. “I never set foot inside a school as a student. But all my children knew what it was like to be there and they were teaching me how to read and write.”
The Bihing Tahik Primary School, where her children and grandson attend, opened at the transition site at Sitio Buggoc here on June 13, 2016. Badjao families, who were displaced by the September 2013 Zamboanga City siege, stayed at the site while waiting for the completion of their permanent homes.
“It’s my pride to see them going to school, walking every day carrying school bags and coming home with new songs, new lessons and new words to read and write,” Jimlani said.
But the school, which started as a day care center for Badjao children, can be reached only through a 500-meter long dilapidated footbridge. The walkway has gaps because some floor boards are missing, forcing children and residents to skip or jump to avoid falling into the sea.
Raymond Amil, head teacher at Bihing Tahik, said the four classrooms they used for the school were unoccupied housing units of the Department of Social Welfare and Development. The Department of Education has accredited the school but it cannot release any budget for its operations and maintenance pending the construction of its own building.
The school is handling 196 students from Kindergarten 1 to Grade 2, with four full-time teachers.
Amil said they brought in some equipment in the classroom but burglars destroyed the roofs, walls and floors.
Ninneng Mahari Amlaji, 47, and a mother of six children, said their wish list include real classrooms for their children.
“Badjao like us have less opportunities. But having a school nearby inspires me and my daughter,” she said.
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