SORSOGON CITY ? I was visiting my hometown to join the Basic Education Stakeholders Forum, the first of its kind in Sorsogon province. With me were Butchie Ayuyao, president of the Foundation for Worldwide People Power (FWWPP) and Dr. Eve Mejillano, the national coordinator of FWWPP?s very popular Mentoring the Mentors Program.
Dr. Ricky Duran Nolasco, FWWPP?s adviser on Multi-Lingual Education got the ball rolling several weeks back by linking up with Councilor David Duran and Rep. Salvador Escudero through his trusted aide, Mitch Sulit. In turn, Mitch and David set up an exploratory meeting with Ms Lorna Figueroa, Mayor Leovic Dioneda?s city administrator and Gov. Sally Lee.
Ricky, David and FWWPP executive director Butch Hernandez then broached the idea of a stakeholders forum to educators like Dr. Higino Ables and Dr. Millie Espina and Sorsogon City Schools Division superintendent Virgilio Real.
The Basic Education Stakeholders Forum for Sorsogon is the FWWPP?s latest effort to organize communities for both education and school reform, using insight gained from our People Power experience. Below are excerpts from my keynote address:
What is People Power?
Even today, many of us do not see the difference between mass actions like demonstrations and street protests and genuine People Power. This is understandable because the most spectacular feature of People Power in 1986 was when more than a million of us stood our ground in front of Camp Aguinaldo and Camp Crame for four days, forcing the Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship to surrender to the power of our collective will and unwavering faith in God.
Sadly, as time went by, People Power was trivialized. Self-styled leaders deceitfully subverted and manipulated popular will, ironically, so that they could perpetuate themselves in power. People Power was never meant to be used this way. People Power is for the common good, not for just a few.
Today, we are gathered for the First Basic Education Stakeholders Forum right here in the City of Sorsogon. You may not realize it but your presence here is the clearest example of People Power at its finest. Why?
Well, first of all we got together because we know that education is the best weapon against poverty. This is very important for us here in Sorsogon because our province is listed in the Social Reform Agenda as a priority area. Therefore, access to quality education for our youth is the key to a prosperous Sorsogon.
However, the crisis that Philippine education faces today is an issue that has many sides and angles. Let me enumerate some of them: Teacher quality, the language of instruction, the child-friendliness of the school, adequate textbooks and workbooks, and many more.
The point is through this forum, you ? the stakeholders ? can have the opportunity to really say out loud what aspect of the education crisis affects you most. You can then share with the rest of us what you think can be done about it. This I believe is the best way to get a more informed appreciation of the problems that our schools, our students and our teachers face here in Sorsogon.
Throughout the day, you?ll get to hear and see what other people ? who are just like you ? have done to uplift the quality of education in their own province, city or municipality. The insight that they will share with us will help us see the entire picture with clarity.
We?ll talk about things like local education alliances and the 5775 Movement. We?ll look into programs that challenge teachers to do better, like the FWWPP?s Mentoring the Mentors Program. I?m sure we?ll have animated discussions on the benefits of multilingual instruction. Last but certainly not the least, together we can honestly assess the resources we now have and plan on how to raise more to sustain the programs and projects that will emerge from our group discussions. The aim of this exercise is for us to have a clear idea of what we are facing. This way, we can come up with workable approaches and lasting solutions to the education issues that our beloved Sorsogon has been struggling to address all these years. In short, together we can discover ways to make our dream for a better Sorsogon come true.
By being a part of this gathering, you are not thinking about yourself or what you?ll get out of this event. Just by turning to the person beside you, you know that you are not alone. I am sure all of you came because deep inside, you all wanted to give the children of Sorsogon the gift of quality education. The selflessness that you?ve shown by coming here is the true essence of People Power.
Eugenia Duran Apostol is the founding chair of the Foundation for Worldwide People Power.