How many pencils did you have as a child?
Some of us may never remember. Pencils were just always there, a childhood staple, alongside a seemingly infinite supply of paper.
Perhaps some of us had even more childhood art supplies – crayons, watercolor, oil paint, the list goes on.
Several Filipino children, however, don’t even own a single pencil.
In North Cotabato, we visited a school on the foothills of Mt. Apo, the country’s highest peak.
The school suffers from a lack of learning materials. Getting there is also a challenge in itself; roads are often dim and muddy.
Most students are indigenous children, coming from less privileged families.
Here we met Jasthene, a 9-year-old girl from a Manobo community.
“I hope my classmates can get school supplies,” Jasthene said in her mother tongue. “Like notebooks, paper, and pens.”
“Because some fight over school supplies,” she added. “They lack resources.” After a while, the students also patch things up. “After all, we’re all friends here,” Jasthene explained.
Although the school does have supplies, they’re simply not enough.
As for textbooks, some are outdated.
In fact, some were published long before the students were born.
Textbooks are shared by at least two students.
The children cannot directly write or color on the book since it would still be used by other classes. Instead of directly drawing on textbooks, students must manually copy and transfer the activities from the book to their notebooks.
Sanitation is another problem.
“There are only two functioning toilets here,” said Teacher Gina Uy. “It’s shared by around 200 students.” The other toilets are broken.
Sometimes the school’s water supply is spotty.
At present, Jasthene’s school has 50 malnourished students.
This problem, however, is not isolated to Jasthene’s village. Malnutrition is experienced by several other students across the country.
“Some are left behind,” Uy observed.
“There are Grade 3 students who still have poor reading comprehension,” she continued. Uy sees poor nutrition as a possible culprit.
Many students only have rice for baon (packed lunch), Uy noted. “They usually have no viand. Sometimes, they have tuyo (dried fish).”
Malnutrition affects not only a child’s physical growth, but also their brain development.
Gift of education
Now in 4th grade, Jasthene and her classmates still have a long way to go.
These children will face several challenges before they reach their dreams.
Can you support them?
We at Save the Children provide education and health programs for children, no matter where they are.
Help us reach even more children in Mindanao and the rest of the Philippines by becoming a donor.
Your support means a lot to indigenous children like Jasthene.
No child is ever too far for us to reach. Do something today, save the children!