The coastal town of Donsol is located at the northwestern part of the province of Sorsogon in Bicol region. Its marine waters are home to the gentle giants of the sea, bringing the poor municipality of Donsol in the limelight as the Whale Shark capital of the World.
Its developing tourism industry shaped the gradual economic growth in Donsol where local enterprise blossomed along with fishing, copra trading and cottage industry.
Contrary to its known natural affluence, this town is still nestled in poor living conditions and lacks access to basic community services and facilities. Improving the quality of basic education is one of Donsol’s challenges that need to be addressed as it transitions to the K to 12 program of the government.
It has 51 barangays with a total of 41 elementary schools and the Public School District Supervisor Eduardo Dollarca admitted that there is a shortfall in classrooms resulting to poor performance due to rapid increase of enrollees annually.
Luz Jubelo, a Pantawid Pamilya beneficiary of Brgy. Dancalan, said that classrooms are vital for her children’s education so she proactively participated in the construction of their 1 unit 3 Classroom School Building which was implemented last year through Kalahi-CIDSS, a DSWD program that seeks to help alleviate poverty through community-driven development (CDD).
“Importante po ang classroom para makaadal maayos asin matuto (Classrooms are important for proper learning),” she said.
Dancalan is considered as the most populous barrio school in Donsol. Its total enrollees for school year 2014-15 reached to 573 students divided into 16 sections that utilized eight (8) functional classrooms and some may not warrant safety for the students because of its dilapidated condition.
Principal Corazon Montilla also added that there were seven classrooms demolished without replacement in their school before.
Prior to the construction of the classrooms, three sections in Grade 1 and Grade 2 suffer from blistering heat and leaks from roof holes. But the timely and expeditious completion of the additional classrooms last March offered a comfortable edifice to the same grade levels for the next school year.
Jubelo was very elated to see her son in Grade 1 occupying the classroom that she and her colleagues built in Dancalan Elementary School.
Despite of her timid personality, Jubelo did not hesitate to become a member of the community-based management committee formed for the construction of the said classrooms because she is aware of her significant role in their development as an elected volunteer in Kalahi-CIDSS.
“Na apply ko sa Kalahi-CIDSS ang tinuro sa Family Development Session (FDS) ng Pantawid Pamilya na maging aktibo sa barangay (Active citizenship is taught in FDS of Pantawid Pamilya and I applied what I’ve learned in Kalahi-CIDSS,” she said.
82 of 306 Pantawid Pamilya beneficiaries in Dancalan Elementary School are expected to benefit from these three classrooms.
“We are thankful to the volunteers who sacrificed for the completion of the project and I’m grateful to the funders because the long wait is over,” Montilla said.
Appreciation of people participation
Brgy. Poso is the smallest yet the most progressive in Donsol where the biggest elementary school is located, the Dancalan East Central School, catering to eight neighboring villages with a total of 1378 students for school year 2015-16.
The school was built 92 years ago and now most of the rooms are dilapidated. Unfortunately, the baneful incineration of five classrooms in 2013 had also affected the students’ academic performances because they were housed in a congested space.
In response to this, the construction of 1 unit 3 Classroom School Building implemented through Kalahi-CIDSS was completed this year.
It made a difference not only to the students but also for its residents as well.
In 2011, Poso’s proposal for the construction of school building was not included for funding during the prioritization of community projects under Kalahi-CIDSS.
Lalaine Cadag, a Grade 4 teacher in Dancalan East Central School and also a volunteer, did not expect that the classrooms will be funded and erected with a grant from Australia’s Aid Program.
According to her, it was a tough job for a teacher and mother like her to give extra time and effort as the head volunteer. Even during weekends, she would check the ongoing construction with the help of other scrupulous residents.
She surmounted this daunting challenge by keeping her heart for her neighbors with an envision of a promising future for the children.
“Kahit hindi pa ako nakapagtayo ng sarili kong bahay, natutunan ko na magconstruct ng school building. Kayang-kaya ko pala (Although I have not built my own house, I learned to construct a school building. I discovered that I am fully capable),”
Moreover, she was inspired by the project itself because everyone in the community is involved.
“Maganda pala ang isang project dahil tao ang nagpapatakbo at lahat nagbabantay kaya walang corruption (The project turned out beautifully because the residents managed the project and all are watchdogs so there is no corruption),” she said.
Cadag is hoping that all government programs would adopt CDD. She appreciated the direct participation of the people in all of processes in Kalahi-CIDSS.
Dollarca agreed with her and added that it is only with Kalahi-CIDSS that he has seen an excellent workmanship of classrooms.
“Gusto namin ulit ma experience ang direct participation kung saan lahat kami ay aware sa barangay (We would want to experience again the direct participation wherein all of us are aware in the community),” Cadag added.
Education is the centerpiece of development and the improved access to basic education of poor communities strengthens their capacities to improve the quality of their lives.
Infrastructures built in Kalahi-CIDSS are perks of a community’s mustered efforts. Development consummates when people influence the decisions affecting their growth while enhancing their capacities to use it for their advantage. It is not only for the benefit of one but for the betterment of everyone.