In 2020, we broke ground for our 100th classroom located in Sitiong, Bagong Silang, General Santos City, as part of our continuous program to address the long-standing shortage of public school classrooms in the Philippines. Fortunately, we were recently able to complete its construction, and it is now being used by the community, who see the new infrastructure as “precious gold.”
Such is the sentiment because prior to the building, students from Bagong Silang High School, who come from Blaan and Tboli tribes, would walk 14 kilometers to get there. Initially, the high school didn’t have enough classrooms to house all their students, so they had to hold Grade 8 classes in the elementary school’s makeshift gymnasium, resulting in students getting drenched during the rain. “Mahirap talaga ang walang classroom kasi hindi ka makakapagplano kung ano yung dapat mong ibigay, bilang isang guro, na nararapat na matutunan ng mga bata,” says Dexter Tejedor the teacher-in-charge.
In the process of building this milestone, many champions of hope rose to the challenge–a testament to the community’s bayanihan spirit. Local farmer Mr. Abel donated one hectare of his land to the school, rooted in the belief that investing in education was more valuable than the potential income he could have made off the land. Even parents of students, including the school’s principal, Ronald Visaya, all chipped in to help out too.
Although in-person classes have yet to resume because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the building is used for module distribution. And even though construction has finished, the place continues to draw the community together with its colorful design, attracting passersby from the nearby highway. More than a place of learning, it’s become a local landmark.
In the future, the teachers of Bagong Silang say they are excited to use their classrooms for more conducive learning, especially now that they have electricity in their school. More than its practical purposes though, the physical classrooms sparked renewed interest in learning amongst the students. From a student count of just 25 enrollees, Bagong Silang High School now has 106 IP learners. “Actually yung iba nagsabi na, ‘gusto ko maging guro o police’ dahil nakikita na nila sa community kung ano ang magiging resulta kung sila ay nakapagtapos sa pag-aaral,” adds Sir Dexter.
The establishment of physical classrooms serves as a way to constantly inspire our Filipino youth to continue their education and for the rest of us to provide sustainable learning environments for our local communities. Sir Dexter ascertains, “Ito ay malaking tulong talaga sa ating community, sa mga teachers, mga schoolheads (…), ito ay malaking tulong upang maboost ang spirit ng ating mga IP learners na mangarap at magkaroon ng magandang pananaw sa buhay para makapagtapos.”
Classrooms are more than just four walls–they boost morale and inspire those that encounter them.