State U to build new floating school for Badjaos

ZAMBOANGA CITY (MindaNews/19 April) – Badjao children aged seven to 15 will once more experience the joy of learning their basic reading, writing and arithmetic as a new floating school for them will soon be built here.

An official of Western Mindanao State University (WMSU) said they has received a grant of $19,146 from the Japanese government through its Grant Assistance for Grassroots Human Security Projects for the construction of a steel-hulled boat that will serve as the floating school for the Badjao children.

Lucio Somblingo, dean of the WMSU Department of Extension Services and Community Development said Monday that the grant will also be used to equip the boat with safety and navigational tools.

The equipment include lifeboats, life vests and fire extinguishers, according to Somblingo.

The crew who will man the boat will be employed by the university, he said.

He said the floating school could start operation within this year as the management of the “Baradero de Cawit,” a firm that will build the boat assured them that it will be completed within 90 working days.

The contract signing for the construction of the boat will be on the second week of May and construction works will follow, he said.

Somblingo said a mobile teacher from the Alternative Learning System (ALS) of the Department of Education (DepEd), who knows how to speak the Badjaos’ native tongue, will be assigned to teach.

He said they will accommodate a total of 50 multi-age Badjao students for two sessions daily–25 morning sessions and 25 afternoon sessions.

The target beneficiaries of the new floating school are the children of Badjao families staying in barangays Taluksangay, Sangali and Maasin.

Somblingo said a literacy course on basic reading, writing and arithmetic will be on two phases at 10 months for each phase.

He said the pupils will take the assessment and equivalency tests to be conducted by DepEd after finishing the first 10-month literacy course.

Those who will pass the examination may proceed to the next 10-month phase of the program, after which they will take the acceleration test of DepEd to determine what grade or year level they are qualified to enroll in formal school.

“By this time, they are already prepared to enter formal school,” Somblingo said.

The steel-hulled boat would be the second floating school WMSU would have.

The first, which was used in mid-2008 when WMSU started the project, was a wooden-hulled catamaran-type boat.

Somblingo, however, disclosed that the 40 students in the first batch only managed to complete the first 10-month phase of the literacy program.

“We were forced to stop the program at that time due to the problems on peace and order,” he lamented.

Three teachers were kidnapped on January 23, 2009 on their way from an elementary school in Sacol Island, 54 kilometers east of this city. They were released on May 26 on the same year.

Somblingo said the first boat they had as a floating school is no longer operational and they are still waiting for the decision of the university president whether to have it rehabilitated or not. (MindaNews)