BURAUEN, Leyte – Public school teachers serving in upland communities here shared stories on how they stayed strong despite financial, family and work-related struggles.
Airen Modina, 39, admitted that she tries to be emotionally numb every time she notices that some of her pupils go to school barefoot, with empty stomach and only one notebook for eight subjects.
“Although I am mindful of their plight, I have my own burden to bear. My husband has been suffering kidney failure for three years now and the only way for him to survive is through dialysis, which is very costly,” said the mother of two, who has been in the teaching profession for more than a decade.
Modina is a Grade 6 teacher of Catagbacan Elementary School, a small campus in a farming community nine kilometers upland from the town center.
The teacher and some family members chip in P23,400 every month for her husband’s monthly dialysis. She only gets P6,900 monthly net salary, with P18,000 cut due to loan deductions.
Since she’s considered as better off than other siblings, she is obliged to provide financial support to her parent and nieces.
“Yes, life is more burdensome with so many work-related problems such as paper works, classroom maintenance, poor performing pupils, but I have to be strong to see my children live a better life in the future. I have been very prayerful and positive that the best is yet to come,” Modina shared.
Shirly Esquierdo, 33, a teacher for more than two years currently assigned at Anonang Elementary School in Barangay Anonang said occasionally hanging out with friends helped her a lot to cope up life’s countless stress.
For two years, she has been left alone to support her three young children after her separation from her husband due to unsettled differences.
Esquierdo also recalled heart-breaking stories among her students from indigent families in Anonang, an upland barangay, 18 kilometers away from the town’s commercial hub.
“Some children just eat a little rice with boiled frogs as side dish for lunch while some just drink water to beat hunger pangs. Deep within, I want to help them all, but I am incapable,” she said.
Accumulated debts reduced the young teacher’s monthly pay from over P20,000 to only P6,500. The meagre pay supports her three school-aged children and jobless mother.
“Personal problems and paper works are inevitable, but staying optimistic of what the future holds is the best choice to manage depression,” she added.
Every day, a teacher is required to prepare a 10-page lesson plan and some instructional materials. On a regular basis, they have make oral reading reports of children, individual cards, and document all school-related activities as attachments to the bi-annual Individual Performance Commitment and Review Form for Teachers.
Department of Education Leyte assistant schools division superintendent Edgar Tenasas praised teachers for their determination to face personal and work-related challenges.
“I salute these teachers who are relentless in their effort to educate our children even in remote communities despite all these problems. I believe that it all depends on emotional stability of a person,” Tenasas added.
The education department reiterated its call for teachers to manage depression after reports circulated on social media that piles of paper work had prompted Emylou Malate, 21, a multi-grade teacher in La Paz, Leyte, to commit suicide inside their house in Limba village last July 14.
Malate, single, was assigned to a multi-grade class at the Bagacay West Primary School, an upland school some 5 kms. from the town center. Her first day of work was last June 25.
(Note: The author is the school head of the Anonang Elementary School in Barangay Anonang, Burauen, Leyte)