MACARTHUR, Leyte–Mary Ann Bren, 16, is all thankful to the dormitory set up inside Palale National High School in Mac Arthur, Leyte, saying the place has saved her from stopping on her studies.
Growing up in a family of 12, Bren said that sustaining her education has been a constant challenge of her parents who are both farmers.
‘We are 10 siblings. Our parents have a hard time supporting our studies especially for our allowance and transportation needs,” said Bren from the interior barangay of San Antonio in the said town.
Bren has to walk for an hour just to reach the school.
Yet after she moved into a dormitory room for the girls inside the high school premises, Bren said she found relief.
“It’s much better here, because I will no longer get tired from walking everyday in going to school. I can attend to my classes every day and save my allowance, too,” she said.
Bren stayed in one room along with 12 other girls in the school. Another room is also made for the 13 other boys whose houses are far from the school.
“This is the first time that I am away from my parents. But it’s just fine because this will be for my own good. I was able to adjust to my new environment. This is just little sacrifices for me to finish my studies,” said Bren who wanted to take up tourism degree in college.
“I really want to finish my studies and find work to help my parents,” she said.
Eighteen-year-old Mark Sumaya, an incoming Grade 8 student, said the distance in going to school was difficult for him.
“We are five siblings. Only two finished Grade 6 while the others already got married. I am thankful that I’ve found a new home inside the school so I can finish my high school,” Sumaya said.
He started staying at the dormitory in September 2018 after it opened in August.
Sumaya said that his parents have to spend P800 every month for the rental payment of a motorcycle which they used to take to the school.
“We have to resort to ‘pakyaw’ for our transportation. It would take about two hours if we will walk going to school from our house,” said Sumaya.
The school assigned some faculty members who also resided in the barangay to serve as “managers” or in-charge of the two rooms inside the school.
The student-boarders were given respective assignments from cooking to cleaning their area.
They also eat together, like in a family. The student-boarders have one cooking area and comfort rooms, respectively.
The dormitory “managers” also instilled discipline and values to the student-boarders. On their free time, they also have some form of recreations like playing chess and learning to play the guitar, among others.
On weekends, the students who chose to stay in the school also get the opportunity to earn extra money by tending to crops of some farmers in the barangay or act as “helper” to other teachers and residents in the area.
While the students do not get extra allowance from the school itself, they however get free board and lodging.
The allocated Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses (MOOE) for Palale National High School is around P38, 555 only. It is being spent for electricity, water, support-learning programs, and other school activities.
While the school’s monthly expenditures have increased due to additional consumption of water and electricity, this did not stop the school and community officials from sustaining the operation of the two-room dormitory for the sake saving the students from dropping out from school.
Before the school only paid about P1,000 for the power and P600 for the water. This time, they are paying about P2,000 for the water and P3,000 for the electricity.
But for Sumaya, he said he is now “focused” on her studies after finding a place in the dormitory.
“I want to become an engineer someday, and hopefully build a bigger dormitory in the school for the next students like me,” he said.
The school leaders also sought technical assistance from Raul Salano, who handled the Drop-Out Reduction Program (DORP) of the Division of Leyte, in bringing in more sponsors and coordinate with other stakeholders for the operation of the dormitory.
DORP is an adherence to the national government’s program of “Education for All.”
It provides intervention program to reduce the high dropout rate and improve learning outcomes among schools both private and public.
More, it increases significantly the achievement level of the Students-at-Risk of Dropping Out (SARDO).
In the case of Palale National High School, the school leaders with the help of the Division and community officials, managed to increase their capabilities to establish, implement, monitor, evaluate and continuously improve the DORP.
The innovation of putting up a dormitory served as its best practice.
With the help of the local government of Mac Arthur, the school’s one story, two-rooms building became a refuge to the students in the interior villages of the town who are at risk of dropping out from their studies.
The Leyte division also envisioned that the project to counter the DORP in Palale will be replicated in all schools in the 40 towns of Leyte and to the rest of the region and the country where many students quit on their studies due to the distance and expenses in going to school.
(Note: The author is a supervisor at the Division of Leyte, handles the Drop-out Reduction Program of the Leyte province)