Following the children's lead
We try to maintain an attitude of seeking at all times to understand and respond to each child’s unique situation. We see ourselves as helping children take the first step - gawin ang unang hakbang – toward creating a positive future.
This has provided us with a unique asset in an experienced and dedicated corps of Munting Titsers, high school- and college-age young people who regularly put in 12 volunteer-hours a month during the school year and 36 volunteer-hours in the summer to help beginning readers recognize letters, provide other children with homework help, lead discussions on children’s rights, and talk about preventing abuse and discrimination.
From among the members of our Mothers' Group have participants in activities, such as, the Citizens Participatory Audit organized by the Commission on Audit in 2019 (https://cpa.coa.gov.ph/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/CPA-Report-DepEd-School-Buildings.pdf). Many of of our mothers have also volunteerd to tutor the children of their neighbors.
Bayanihan Magtulungan Sa Pag-Aaral (BMP)
The COVID-19 emergency was an extremely disruptive event. But even as it exposed more starkly the vulnerabilities already existing in our society, it also showed how much goodwill there is among us and that we can work together to bounce back better. Among those who went out of their way for others are the peer tutors or Munting Titsers (MTs) of UHF. These are the young people who had grown up with UHF, entering its program initially as a beneficiary. Perceiving that children in the early grades had a great need for learning support, UHF’s Munting Titsers eagerly volunteered as tutors. The Bayanihan Magtulungan sa Pag-Aaral (BMP) project was conceptualized to put this effort together.
Recognizing the necessity for children to have a learning facilitator so that they can keep up with schoolwork under the new Basic Education Learning Continuity Plan (BE-LCP) crafted in response to schools being closed, the Department of Education (DepEd) recommended that a learning facilitator or a household partner, like the parent, guardian, sibling, or some other community member or responsible adult, be available “to guide and support the learning process of the child at home as well as provide guidance in accomplishing given home learning tasks” (DepEd Memorandum DM-CI-2020-00162 dated 21 July 2020, p4). Earlier, DepEd already suggested that “learners can organize their own FB and SMS group” and that if they live near each other,“and their LGU allows small gatherings, they could meet in pairs/triads to discuss their learning activities” (Learning Opportunities Shall Be Available: The Basic Education Learning Continuity Plan In The Time of COVID-19, May 2020, p38).
Stepping into this breach, our young MTs eagerly embarked on what they perceived would be a great adventure. Indeed, it served as creative way to relive the stress of living with COVID-19 and coping with having reduced peer interactions.
96 MTs volunteered to be part of this project in SY 2020-2021 and regularly met with their tutees from December 2020 to June 2021. In Mandaluyong, they tutored 137 children living in their pasilyo who were enrolled or would be enrolling in Kinder to Grade 3. In Pampanga, tutorials for 129 tutees were held in the fields or under the trees in the open space beside the houses of the children. Learning modules and activity sheets developed by UHF guided the tutorials which were intended to: (a) raise the learners’ ability to read and comprehend what they are reading and (b) increase their fluency in performing the basic mathematical operations. These are the foundational skills that children in the early grades must acquire. Student learning is cumulative and, without these basic skills, they will only have increasing difficulty in doing the work required of them, putting them at risk of dropping out of school.
Help was also been provided older children in the same or near-households so they can keep up with the pace at which they must complete their self-learning modules. Most importantly, all involved in the project were trained to spot children exhibiting signs of potential distress and report those incidents to a responsible adult who can take charge.
In SY 2021-2022, we have 145 who have volunteered to continue this project—125, or 29 more high schoolers than last year, to be joined by 20 of our mothers.