Young Blood

Education in the clouds

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For sheer adventure, I was led to a place where science is taught but is often contradicted by practice. I had heard news of a series of deaths that struck a grade school. The incidents were ascribed to the supernatural because three students died without a logical medical reason, and more of them manifested the same symptoms.

To get to the school from the city, one takes a 3-hour ride on a motorcycle locally called “habal-habal.” To the urban resident, the distance itself represents the difficulty of conveying the views of modern medicine.

The school has nothing to boast of by way of innovation except for a newly purchased but outdated desktop computer. The roof posed grave danger, and one time a huge snake just dropped from it into the middle of the class. Anyway, the students have adapted to that, so no one let out an elitist scream. The library seemed to be a repository of ancient texts, with decaying books that still recognized Pluto as a planet. If you’re a visiting student from an urban area, you’d think you have the best education in the world.

The students are trained, not to be scholars and leaders, but to be future modern slaves. In the morning after the flag ceremony, they go to the garden to pluck grass, fetch water from the well (three kilometers away), cook, etc. It’s like what they usually do at home or in a caregiver school. In my educational experience in an urban area, I never knew such a technique of enhancing students’ knowledge exists.

That’s why the community, and even the teachers, went to the faith healer when the deaths occurred. The students had the symptoms of a certain disease, but their teachers would rather blame supernatural elements than consult a medical practitioner. This manner of reacting to the deaths may be the result of an education that is primarily based on guesses. It came to a point that I wasn’t interested anymore in the deaths. My observation focused on how knowledge is transmitted to the kids.

But there was something wrong with their system of teaching. The students spent most of their time doing household chores. Out of curiosity, I dared ask a teacher: Are you doing this every day? She replied: Yes, and other schools, too, especially those in the far-flung areas.

This is basically the practice because there is not enough equipment and materials to use in teaching. Like, you want the kids to learn about microorganisms but there is no microscope, or badminton, but there are no rackets. The teachers know very well that this is wrong, but they can only teach mathematics and language because these subjects do not require a laboratory. At first I blamed the teachers, the principal, and other stakeholders, but apparently, their reasons are valid enough. It’s difficult to make conclusions from an experiment conducted in the imagination.

I also found out that the students get to school after crossing a river and several hills. They go to school with all these hardships but learn only a new style of gardening. Maybe this is the root cause of the persistent poverty in the country. How will the kids develop the mental capacity to think about innovation and national development? With the taxes that our parents pay, how can the government let this kind of education exist in the far-flung areas?

I looked at the faces of the kids and wondered what kind of life awaits them and what kind of future awaits our country.  Most of today’s youth are occupied by cell phones, iPads and cars, while those kids up in the mountainous areas are satisfied to be in the caves of poor education.

And every sunset, the school is covered by clouds…

Anna Gabriell Balan, 17, is a psychology sophomore at the University of the Philippines Visayas.

The ‘honorables’

By Stephen Paul S. Escaño

Government is a joke. It was created to support those who are capable of getting in there. Presidents promise a better life, better system, better income, more food on the table, no corruption, no illegal gambling. At first they will be actively implementing rules, and then it’s a return to the old bad ways.

When a politician is in the opposite side, he portrays himself as the righteous one, better than the one who is occupying the position where he wants to be. And when he’s up there, the one who’s dislodged becomes the opposition and will do what his adversary did, trying to convince the people that he is better than the one who was elected.

And it will continue to happen again and again, with a different set of characters, but with the same motive. They provide free water, free medicines, free hospitalization, etc. There’s almost nothing free in this world, so how can Mr. Congressman, Mr. Mayor, etc. say it’s free? Didn’t those medicines, water, and payments for hospital bills come from the taxes paid by the people?

Yet Mr. Congressman, Mr. Mayor, etc. claim that without them, the free stuff would not have been possible, and that it was through them that certain projects were done, etc. But how can they claim the credit? I despise them, especially when I see their images on large tarpaulins in cities and towns announcing this and that project, claiming they are the ones who provide these things to the people.

Hey there, politician! It was not your money that was spent for the services for the people; it’s the common property of every citizen of this country. It’s not for you to use in order to secure another term of office!

But here we are again, it’s election time, and it’s funny how very good our politicians are in timing the release of budgets for special funding, for certain projects, say in a city that was declared in a state of calamity after a low-intensity earthquake. I am so very disappointed, but who the hell cares? People who are supposed to serve the people are the ones who want to be served; they have to be seated at the main tables, they require VIP rooms and special treatments, etc.

Where is this country heading to? Are we really heading to something that’s going to improve our lives? It’s been seven years since I became an active participant in the selection of the country’s leaders, and it seems to me that nothing significant has occurred. Corruption is still normal, traditional politicians still win, political dynasties still thrive. Human rights continue to be violated. Government agencies become active only if a video camera is rolling; there are long lines for securing clearances, services are slow, it takes months to secure a professional license.

Irrigation is lousy, there are traffic jams, drainage systems are so defective that floods easily occur. There is no water especially in Iloilo City, which is dubbed a highly urbanized city—what a piece of crap! It seems to me we are like a herd of sheep led by a shepherd toward the wolves.

Stephen Paul S. Escaño, 24, is a member of the finance staff of Orix Metro.

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