The sun was barely up, yet a little girl was already out and about, crossing a river.
Her feet drowned in cool water. Sometimes she loses a slipper to currents; other times she blisters a toe. The little girl walks over sharp slippery stones as if they were nothing but fine sand.
After the river, comes the muddy road.
Tall and towering coconut trees could seem intimidating, but not for 13-year-old Julaina. The young T-boli girl is determined to reach her destination.
After about an hour, Julaina’s journey ends. She arrives at school.
A girl’s life
It is amazing how Julaina pours so much energy into her classes – even after her hour-long journey and a hectic morning at home.
Every day, Julaina gets up early in the morning to fetch water. She cooks breakfast, washes dishes, and cleans the house alongside her mother. She also helps care for her four younger siblings.
The weather in the highlands could get very cool, and at times, Julaina skips her bath. “The water is too cold,” she said in her mother tongue.
After her chores, she heads out to school. She walks with her younger siblings, ensuring they are safe.
Now in 6th grade, Julaina is determined to become a teacher someday. “I dream to be a teacher just like my teachers,” she said. “So I can help my fellow poor children.”
Julaina loves to read. Unfortunately, she has a very limited access to books. Such is the case for most children in her village.
She also hopes that more storybooks would be written in her mother tongue.
The young aspiring teacher believes that kids can understand and explore topics better if they can learn in the language they know best.
Julaina’s school’s population is mostly – but not exclusively – composed of indigenous children like her.
Like most schools in the Philippines, Julaina’s school suffers from deprivation. It lacks updated books and learning materials, clean and functioning toilets, and teachers.
Getting to school is also difficult due to poor road conditions.
Many children live far from schools, making transportation fares (rented motorbikes) expensive. This leaves them no choice but to walk. Since there is a lack of street lamps, children’s safety also becomes a concern.
Several indigenous children in the Mindanao region have never lived life without these problems.
Making it right
Julaina’s life is a story of perseverance, but it is also a sad tale of inequality.
No child should ever have to struggle like this. Indigenous children like Julaina deserve good education and healthcare, just like all Filipino children.
Help us make Julaina’s story right. Let us give the children of Maitum, Sarangani the opportunities they rightfully deserve.
We can start by providing them the opportunity to enjoy school.
Your simple donation to Save the Children can go a long way, reaching Filipino children no matter how far they are. Together, let’s allow kids to enjoy their childhood!
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