Mohon Elementary School had its annual PTA meeting last week, so Lee and I walked down the street with a couple of the kids to take pictures of the school and learn about the the faculty’s plans for the upcoming year. Seventeen kids from the orphanage attend the elementary school, and many of them are multiple grades behind because they missed years of school before coming to the orphanage. For example, one 15-year-old is currently in third grade.
It is clear to see why it’s so difficult for many families to afford to send their children to school. Enrolling in school is expensive first because parents need to purchase many items before the year begins. At the start of this school year, the kids at the orphanage needed 18 spiral notebooks each, uniforms, brooms, wax for the floors, and foot mops. Matthew and Lee spent around $900 (U.S.) on school supplies for their 25 kids at the beginning of the year.
However, that’s only the beginning of the school costs. Because the school receives a limited amount of money from the government, the faculty asks parents to donate money toward many improvements, such as perimeter fencing. Additionally, almost every day the kids need money to pay for school project materials. The kids have come home asking for everything from poster board to cow manure…I’m not exactly sure what that project was about.
The teachers at the school seem very dedicated; however, they teach in very difficult circumstances. Each teacher has a class of 48-60 students. There are between seven and nine classes per grade level.
Although the schools are public, they are very Catholic. At the beginning of the meeting the principal said a prayer and gave a mini-sermon. The students (though not our students) also bring offerings to the Virgin Mary and the Santo Niño (the Baby Jesus) every week.
The faculty began the PTA meeting by playing the Filipino national anthem. In addition to the anthem, the prayer, and the sermon, some of the teachers participated in something I wasn’t expecting at all. The principal introduced them, and one of the women I was with leaned over to me and said they were going to do a dance. Then Katy Perry’s song “Firework” started playing, and the teachers came alive. It was great. People here love to sing and dance whether they are talented or not. It’s so funny to hear songs that premier on American Idol or something like that playing out of a shack or a cart on the other side of the world. I think our music is even more popular here than in America. It’s absolutely everywhere, and all the kids walk around singing a mix of mainly English worship songs and some pop music and Cebuano worship songs.
Karaoke is really popular here, too. After the meeting, a bunch of older kids gathered in a room and around the windows to sing songs into a microphone. I couldn’t tell if they had words in front of them or not, but it was definitely fun. And, of course, it was another place where I stood out and random people waved to me and wanted me to take their picture. That always makes me laugh.
I really liked all of the colors at the school. Each building was a different color, and the school had a really cool playground and garden. I think the teachers instruct the kids to take care of the environment. During the meeting (which I only understood bits and pieces of because most of it was in Cebuano), a woman talked about the importance of planting trees.
Overall, it seems like the teachers really care about their students and try to give them a good education, but the school still has many challenges. In my opinion, it’s really impractical for a teacher to instruct up to 60 little kids. The children from the orphanage particularly need more one on one instruction so that they can catch up to where they are supposed to be. I’ve also noticed that many of the kids are confused about their homework when they come home, and sometimes the instructions which are given in English are not written well and confusing even to me. (Furthermore, some of them have been bullied, as you can read about in my previous post on health.)
Matthew and Lee would really like to be able to start their own school in the future that can help the children reach the place where they should be in their education. Of course, right now homeschooling 25 kids who are still learning English is completely out of the question.