A simple wooden bridge leads to the grounds of Lagao National High School Extension. “Welcome, dear learners!” reads a sign just in front of the gate that opens to the 2.5-hectare land where four newly built classrooms from Vita Coco now stand.
It’s May 23, 2022, the first day of face-to-face classes since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020. For two years, students have resorted to online classes or modular learning, with gadgets as their only tools. All that will change as the campus has opened its doors once again.
“I saw the students trying to adjust to each other’s presence, the teachers, and the entire setup. But it was a good kind of adjustment,” shares HOPE engagement officer Mesh Adapon, who witnessed the show of mixed emotions on the big day.
The new school year poses a set of challenges for the students who have gotten used to studying independently, albeit with difficulties. Jamaica Jadraque, a Grade 9 student, admits to feeling excited yet nervous about relearning communication skills but looks forward to putting her mind to work. “I look forward to learning a lot more because we'll be taught directly by our teachers in person, unlike before when it would be just self-learning.”
Despite the nervousness, students are more thrilled by the opportunities that in-person classes present, such as group activities and social interactions that can never be replicated at home: "What I miss about face-to-face classes is having activities together with my classmates because now we only do individual assignments,” says Renel Cueva, another Grade 9 student who shares his fondness for group works.
The four newly opened classrooms will facilitate these students' education, which is important for such a highly technical learning institution. Lagao is the first agri-fishery school in General Santos City, Sarangani.
The school aims to further hone its students’ knowledge of fish production and kindle an interest in agriculture to benefit the students and their families, the community, and perhaps even the entire Philippines. Given its specializations, students and teachers will benefit from the hands-on experience made possible by the new and improved classrooms–the campus’ first standard buildings.
“This will help make agriculture alive in the hearts and minds of our students” - Teacher Rivelen Arce
When asked about the impact this type of education will have, Teacher Rivelen Arce says, “The agri-fishery school will serve as an eye-opener to the students that will soon help them to be more knowledgeable and be open-minded about agriculture and fishery. This will also provide income-generating projects that will eventually benefit the students and their families in the future.”
Despite being a young school, Lagao has immense opportunities and possibilities. Building on the development of face-to-face classes, teachers are expecting the enrollment to greatly increase in the succeeding school years. It is presently home to 259 young Filipinos from Grades 7 to 10. In the past, parents were once hesitant to send their children to Lagao because the classrooms were only made of ‘kalakat’ or split bamboo, but now the newly-built spaces prove that the school can provide quality education for the community’s youth.
Lagao National High School Extension started construction on June 3, 2019, but despite the pandemic in 2020, the build kept on going. “With the help of HOPE, one of our greatest desires turned into reality. The first concrete classroom building has finally arrived," shares the school principal, Iris Visaya.
It may have been a big day of firsts for Lagao, but it’s a new beginning that will open up possibilities for a better tomorrow. A turnover ceremony will be held before the end of June 2022 alongside the students' moving-up ceremony.