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In Maguindanao, new classrooms help realise dreams

Australia brings new classrooms and new hope to the remote barangay of Tomicor

Elisa wakes up early every day to prepare for school. For Elisa, like many children in the remote barangay of Tomicor, school is the ticket to a better future. But the small, local school in her village in Maguindanao, had seen better days.

Tomicor Elementary School was constructed in 1973. Up until 2019, the school had only three classrooms – and they had barely been renovated in four and a half decades. Classes were overcrowded and conditions were poor. Access to quality education also remains a challenge in many remote communities in the Philippines, particularly in the Bangsamoro region in which Maguindanao is a part of.

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Children had to travel eight to nine kilometers to go to school.

Evelyn has taught at Tomicor Elementary since 1993. She vividly remembers the decrepit state of the classroom on her first day – dilapidated walls and ceilings, and no electricity. For several years, she and her students had to endure these difficult conditions.

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Tomicor Elementary School, 1993.

Renniel, a sixth grader, said she and her classmates worried that the roof might fall in. On rainy days, it would leak and the students would get wet. Even worse, in a community in which learning resources are scarce, the students’ note books and work sheets would get drenched.

Jeric, a fourth grader, dreams of becoming a soldier, so he can protect his community. Classmates Elisa and Renniel share the dream of becoming teachers. “I want to be a teacher, so I can teach the students of Tomicor,” said Elisa. And Princess, who is only in Grade 1, has already set her sights on becoming a doctor so she can help sick kids.

Tribal leader Pacita Colina dreams of a better future for her community. She believes that no one can help her ethnic group, Teduray, but those who are educated.

Australia’s education partnership with the Philippines, which spans more than 30 years, has helped transform schools and communities across the Philippines. Together with the Department of Education, the Bangsamoro Government and the non-government organization Philippine Business for Social Progress, Australia has supported school construction in thousands of communities, particularly in the Bangsamoro, so that every Filipino child has access to quality education.

Now Tomicor Elementary School has two new classrooms that are disaster-resilient and accessible to children with physical disabilities. Teacher Evelyn, now Tomicor’s School Head, is grateful for the new classrooms, which are equipped with electricity, ceiling fans and lights, and new girls’ and boys’ toilets, which are now separated. Teachers can now use audio-visual materials, and students are now excelling in academic competitions.

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New classrooms of Tomicor Elementary School

None of this would have been possible without the active support of the community. Parents contributed labour and materials, pushing trucks up unpaved roads and fetching water from the river to help with the construction.

Elisa is now in junior high school, inching closer to her dream of becoming a teacher.

 

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