Buhay Public High: Life in Bukidnon Public High Schools and the Countless Opportunities to Make Meaningful Contributions

It’s been two weeks since the opening of the new school year in Philippine public high schools and three weeks since the kick-off of the National Schools Maintenance Week or more popularly known as Brigada Eskwela. As the name implies, the National Schools Maintenance Week is supposed to last for only a week with the primary goal of preparing the schools’ physical facilities for the opening the new school year, but in most cases seven days are hardly enough so it’s not surprising that until today there remains plenty of opportunities for stakeholders of education to make meaningful contributions and offer assistance.

At Quezon National High School in Quezon, Bukidnon, where I work as the students’ career coach, the Guidance Office needs much renovation to make it accommodating to both students and parents and suitable for holding coaching sessions with clients. Despite the challenges in the availability of funds and human resource, the QN Guidance Office recently acquired a small office table for the Guidance Counselor and a wooden storage cabinet with lock for the safekeeping of counseling records and other confidential documents.

Since the Department of Education deployed Guidance Counselors to every major National High Schools in the country in 2009, Guidance Counselors and Career Guidance Advocates in public secondary schools in Bukidnon continue to face the challenge of acquiring the much needed support to get their Guidance Programs running as planned. In some schools for instance, Guidance Offices don’t have their own computers, printers and other office equipment. The Guidance Counselor will have to go look for a computer where she can encode the school’s Guidance Program and a printer to print these documents. What most school counselors do, if they are serious about getting their job done, is they buy their own laptop computers and printers and start working as they continue to pray for their requests to be granted.

When I got reassigned in my new station six months ago, the very first thing I did was turn in a purchase request for office equipment like a desktop computer and a printer because although the Guidance Office  has been in existence for over seven years now, it has not been fully furnished yet. Yes, I guess I’m that slow; that slow in coming to accept the reality that in the public school system, we need to be highly creative and resourceful and have the initiative to tap the stakeholders of education in the community. The people from the accounting department told me my request has been included in the school’s annual procurement plan, which is good, but I’m not entirely sure when it will be granted. What I’m sure of is that the school’s clientele cannot wait and I will have to make use of what I have.

So, everyday, I go to work with a back pack full of a laptop computer, a lunch box and an umbrella. I’m lucky to have an officemate who has a printer and is nice enough to share it with me and other teachers whose laptop computers are compatible with it (oh yes, teachers bring their own computers too).

There is one small table that the former Guidance Counselor was using, but I thought it was too small for paper works, so I thought I needed to get a bigger one, too. There is no file cabinet in which I can store students’ counseling records and other documents that require utmost confidentiality, so that went to my list as well.

Quezon National High School Guidance Office Table
When I first arrived in QN six months ago, the Guidance Counselor’s table (a.) was at the center of the room. When people come to use the rest room, they turn right, past the counselor’s left side. Behind her is a partitioned corner that served as a counseling area (b.) Notice how tiny the table is?

 

Quezon National High School Guidance Office in Quezon, Bukidnon

When the new table (a.) arrived, I moved it towards the side of the room so that when I sit down my back is towards the wall instead of facing the door. To my left is the old shelf which now serves as partition between the counseling area and the rest of the room.

Fortunately, a few kind-hearted and generous people answered my request for donations during the Brigada Eskwela week (very few, actually – my little brother and my husband). With the little amount of money they threw in, I was able to have a small wooden cabinet built and it took the place of a partition which I wanted installed to break off the straight line from the office’s main door to the one that leads to the restroom. They say it’s bad Feng Shui to have both these doors facing each other in a straight line. Not that I’m big fan of Feng Shui, but I have lived long enough to witness tragedies resulting from bad architectural and interior designs.

Quezon National High School Guidance Office in Quezon, Bukidnon
This was the set up before we started renovating. There was a long shelf to the left (a.) and when guests come in they get greeted and welcomed by the restroom door (b.).

 

Quezon National High School in Quezon, Bukidnon
One of my colleagues removed the shelf. Notice the space it left in the room? (a.) In its place we are planning to put a low center table where students can accomplish forms or answer non-standardized tests, play board games or read when they have free time. The newly built cabinet (b.), a replica of the old one to the left side of the room, now stands between the main door and the restroom door. Guests turn right to use the rest room while clients turn left when they need to use the coaching area.

Speaking of bad Feng Shui, I think nothing beats clutter and a messy physical environment in screwing up people’s mind. So in addition to storage cabinets and organizers, office equipment and furniture, I think the Guidance Office – and the entire school campus for that matter – can make use of trash bins and a Solid Waste Management Program that rocks.

The local government sends a garbage truck to collect the school’s garbage on Thursdays, but in between those days the garbage will have to remain in one area where initial segregation should have taken place already. I have found the perfect spot in the Guidance Office where initial segregation can take place and right now I need one more trash bin. I think I can have my mom provide for that.

Quezon National High School, Mibando, Quezon, Bukidnon
This is the stairway that leads to the second level of the main academic building. The Guidance Office is first door to the left upstairs. If you notice, we need a little more time to learn where to throw our garbage. With perseverance and the teachers’ good example, I’m confident we’ll be able to get things right in no time.

 

Quezon National High School in Mibando, Quezon, Bukidnon
This is the second level

A Call for Help

After seven years in service, I still have no grasp at how people in public schools do the budget. I understand that the Department requires the presence of various internal and external stakeholders in planning and management (as in the creation of the School Improvement Plan), setting priorities, etc. Unfortunately, this is not always followed in all schools. So we make do with what we have.

Where I work, the teachers are doing a wonderful job improving their classrooms to make it as child-friendly and as conducive to learning as possible, even if it means having to spend their own money for it. Similarly, Guidance Counselors and Career Guidance Advocates in Bukidnon public high schools dream of nothing more than having a Guidance Office that’s suitable for holding individual as well as small group counseling sessions; a serene place where troubled students can come to for help and refuge; where adolescent learners can drop by and have a wonderful learning experience; where parents who come from remote barrios to discuss their children’s progress and get feedback can sit down and be accommodated.

I know many people share this dream and if you are one of those many people, here is your chance to help. If what Nelson Mandela said about education being the most powerful weapon one can use to change the world, then teachers as well as parents are in the best position to wield this weapon to change the world for the better. In Episode 9 of Season 6 of the HBO TV series Game of Thrones, Daenerys Targaryen said to Yara Greyjoy, “Our fathers were evil men; all of us here. They left the world worse than they found it. We’re not going to do that. We’re going to leave the world better than we found it.” Is it obvious I’m a GOT fan?

Again, if what Mandela said about education is true then teachers are perhaps the most powerful change agents in the world. If you are not a teacher by profession then that makes two of us, but we too can share the advocacy of educating the youth, especially young girls.

There are people around the world today who advocate the education of girls because they firmly that when you educate a girl, you educate the whole world. I share this very same belief. Young girls will soon become mothers and you and I know just how massive a mother’s influence is on her children – both boys and girls. If, growing up, a girl comes to appreciate and master the art of harnessing the power of education to make the world a better place for humanity then we can all sleep well at night knowing our children’s future will be bright.

Yes, we can share this advocacy together and we can begin in Quezon National High School, where there are countless opportunities to make meaningful contributions and help make this world a better place to live in.

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