Sunday, June 04, 2006

An ode to Lope de Vega

LA SALLE BEGAN classes last week. Most schools start classes tomorrow. This week is Ateneo’s registration week. And while we ask around for which teachers to avoid and complain about our random numbers, and as presidents and education officials go on grandstanding sprees to project an image of concern, the Inquirer today (Sunday, June 4) gives us a story about a tiny school in Northern Samar that we can all learn from. Their heroics is beyond People Power proportions.

Lope de Vega National High School is a public school in the mountains of a rural provincial area. But instead of wallowing in what such credentials normally entail, this high school and its students have flourished. It was nationally rated as the best public high school in the 03-04 school year based on the National Achievement Test, beating out all the bigger public schools in Metro Manila. The average test score from Lope de Vega was 86.7%; the national average was below 50% (44.6%). In the 04-05 school year, they dropped to seventh among all public high schools. ("Off" year, perhaps?)

The student-teacher ratio is 63 to 1. The student body consists mainly of children of farmers who don’t own the land they work on. Many of these students walk two hours to school everyday. When it’s raining, well they can pretty much forget about school.

And yet with all these things working against them, these students excel. Why? Because they want to. They believe in education, however low in standard. They want to learn. And instead of being victimized by the prolonged crisis in Philippine education, and while “leaders” argue over the definition of “classroom shortage,” the students of Lope de Vega make the best of what they have. They find their own ways to excel.

Because desire and determination exists, parents and teachers have rallied behind these students. Teachers supplement lessons by offering Saturday classes for free (and they are heroes for doing so). Parents and school administrators hold regular “town hall” style meetings to discuss the needs of the school. And instead of waiting for government funding (however little), they put together whatever meager resources they have to shoulder their needs immediately.

The local government (to their credit) has recognized the efforts of these students and how their teachers and families have rallied behind them, so they have contributed more financial resources into the school. Smart Telecommunications has also recognized these kids and have offered free internet use, educational resources, and teacher training. (This Globe user commends them.)

The system doesn’t work. Too many factors (most of which are unnecessary) prevent educational rights to trickle down to small schools in small provinces. So this community has turned their backs to the system. If neglect is what the government gives them, they choose not to rely on government.

The Lope de Vega community is a true example of the bayanihan spirit. It’s a cooperative spirit based on the personal will of individuals and the desire for better quality of life for all. Instead of being victimized by broken promises, they’ve taken power into their own hands.

In their own way, they’ve created a Utopia. Because of the strong positive values of young individuals, the community, the local government, and the private sector have responded. That’s a blueprint for all Filipinos to follow.

The best thing about it is that these kids from Lope de Vega will grow up to be responsible, talented, and disciplined citizens. They will become leaders in their own right, because they didn’t let the leaders of today dictate their demise. They will see where today’s leaders have failed them and they will be the kind of leaders that they deserved when they were growing up.

In Lope de Vega we see the new revolution. This is the new way for citizens to respond to their difficult circumstances—a more responsibly proactive way. From the revolution of the self comes the evolution of cultural values. The result is true change of leadership based on a change in our cultural thinking, while still maintaining the traditional bayanihan spirit.

True People Power can affect a village, and then a town, a province, and eventually the entire country. But it starts within. We should thank a small school in Northern Samar for showing us how it’s done.


Post a Comment

<< Home