CAGAYAN DE ORO (MindaNews/12 Jan) – Every Saturday, Mary Grace Barlisan, 18, a second-year education student from Xavier University, wakes up early to prepare for the big day ahead.
But Mary Grace is not preparing to spend the day at the malls like other students of her age are planning to do. Nor will she be doing her assignments this Saturday.
Mary Grace will be meeting with her classmates and go to Consolacion Elementary School, trying to help the students who are perennial flunkies.
Consolacion Elementary School, located in one of the poorer sections of Cagayan de Oro City, has a serious problem of slow performing students. Of its 1,454 students, 44 percent or 640 students constantly got failing marks.
Mary Grace and her friend, Mariel Ann Waga, 17, a first year nursing student also from Xavier University, volunteered to help tutor the students.
“These children need special care and tutoring,” Mary Grace told MindaNews.
“I like this because I can see that the children really need our tutoring,” seconded Waga.
Mary Grace, Waga and four other schoolmates handle 20 Grade Two students every Saturday.
They spend the day teaching the children the ABCs of the English language, drawing and sometimes dancing.
“Yes, we allow them to dance. The children love to breakdance especially if the lessons are too hard for them. They also love to draw very much,” Waga said.
Mary Grace said the volunteer tutors allow the children to dance, draw or anything they want to do especially when they become agitated by lessons.
“But after the dance and drawings it will always be back to the lessons,” she said.
Rosal Omandam, Consolacion school teacher and program coordinator, said the presence of volunteers is welcomed by the school.
“The presence of Mary Grace and her friends is a major step of intervention. The students they have tutored every Saturday are slowly responding. Their grades are improving,” Omandam noted.
She said the school hoped that many more intervention programs like the National Science Training Program (NSTP) and CommuniTeach will be available for their students.
The NSTP and CommuniTeach programs are run by Xavier University, the Department of Education and Smart Communications.
“Our students come from poor families. Sometimes they come to school hungry or they may have to skip classes to help their parents eke out a living,” Omandam said.
She said many times, the school is converted into an evacuation center every time the Cagayan de Oro River is flooded.
“Our students are constantly distracted. Given the poor environment, the students here have low esteem,” Omandam said,
Waga said she observed that many of the students she tutored told her they received no help from their parents.
“The parents have limited knowledge in English or math. Either that or they are too tired to tutor their children,” she said. (Froilan Gallardo / MindaNews)