Barangay Simlong in Batangas was once a rural community that has since transformed into a place of opportunity for young people wishing to have better chances in life. However, because of the pandemic, their dreams have been threatened and continuing their education, highly uncertain.
As the barangay’s students could no longer attend face-to-face classes at Simlong Elementary School, many of them were compelled to pursue their education through distance learning.
Leijian Salazar, a Grade 6 student from Simlong Elementary School, shared how she struggled with modular learning as there were no teachers to guide her, unlike before. Leijian recalled how she once considered harder subjects, such as math and science, fun because a teacher was always there to explain or to help students when needed. Now, however, the students are left to answer the modules by themselves.
She is not alone in this struggle. In her community, most students use modular learning as the main medium to continue their studies, since only 27% of students are able to connect to the internet. Because of the pandemic, public school students like Leijian and her peers have had to work even harder than before to obtain a decent education and fuel their hopes for a better future.
But what if these students from Simlong could have more equitable opportunities at learning? What if they were provided with a better chance of achieving their dreams and becoming part of the productive workforce in their community?
This is the goal of the Juan Kapatid Project of the Gokongwei Brothers Foundation in partnership with JG Summit Petrochemicals Group and AHA Learning Center. According to GBF Executive Director Grace Colet, “Binuo namin ang Juan Community para makatulong sa mga mag-aaral, guro, magulang at sa lahat ng mga taong tumutulong sa pagkatuto ng ating mga estudyante, one community at a time.” (Juan Community was built in order to aid students, teachers, parents, and partners who help our students learn, one community at a time.)
Juan Kapatid enables students like Leijian to receive better interventions to guide and motivate them to do their best. Students will be equipped to understand why it is important to learn and how they can give back and help their communities.
Under the project, students will undergo a holistic learning program highlighting STEM subjects. GBF believes that STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) is the driving force for sustainable national development. It is also GBF’s way of giving back to the community by opening opportunities that the future workforce can tap.
The students aren’t the only ones being prepared to become STEM champions. Under Juan Kapatid, parents will be taught how to support the students in their new online set-up. In order to encourage their children to take up STEM-heavy courses and careers, parents will also be advised about the benefits of STEM. In the future, these parents could become STEM advocates who encourage their peers to guide their own children on a STEM track.
The role of teachers is highly valued under Juan Kapatid. Teachers will be active partners in the advocacy they will learn Teaching at the Right Level (TaRL) concepts and best practices, which were developed by an Indian-based NGO, the Pratham Education Foundation.
One of the largest innovative learning organizations in the world today, the Pratham Education Foundation was originally established in 1995 to improve the quality of education in its home country, focusing on high-quality, low-cost, and replicable interventions to address gaps in the education system. TaRL has been successfully implemented in India, Ghana, Botswana, Madagascar, Uganda, Zambia, and now, the Philippines.
With Simlong teachers being certified TaRL Teachers, they will be equipped to teach children at the right level and produce learners who can compete with students all over the country and even the world.
Through Juan Kapatid, GBF and its partners are breaking down the barriers and obstacles that are holding the children of Simlong back. With a community working hand in hand and lighting the way to the future, their dreams for a better chance in life can continue.
Hand in hand with its partners, GBF is working towards a future where no Juan is left behind and where every dream is possible.
For more information on the Gokongwei Brothers Foundation, visit gokongweibrothersfoundation.org