Hugpong Barangay: Edukasyon Parapit sa Balay (United Barangays in Action: Bringing Education Closer to Home)
Distant education facilities are among the reasons why there is low attendance and low academic performance in rural high schools. This is especially true in communities with rough terrain such as Seven Cities of the Municipality of Alimodian.
A 3rd class municipality, Alimodian is composed of 51 barangays clustered into nine districts. Transportation is scarce especially during bad weather because of the mountainous and steep terrain. The lone jeepney ferries passengers only twice a day—once in the morning and another in the afternoon, while motorcycles are rented at PhP150.00 per trip for the 25-kilometer or one-hour drive from Seven Cities to the poblacion.
A large number of students coming from the upland barangays cannot afford secondary education because of high costs for board, lodging, allowances and transportation and are consigned to helping their parents in crop and vegetable farming.
In 2005, there were only two secondary schools in the municipality—the Alimodian National Comprehensive High School (ANCHS) and the Gines National High School (GNHS), which are located in the Poblacion and in Barangay Gines. The congested classrooms forced the teachers to hold classes in hallways and even under the trees.
Consultations between the Department of Education (DepEd), the LGU and the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) led to the proposed establishment of four new high schools. This proposal was developed into the program called Hugpong Barangay, Edukasyon Parapit sa Balay or Bringing Education Closer to Home. The program aims to bring secondary education closer to students by establishing secondary schools in strategically-clustered barangays. The aim was to provide secondary schools which are accessible and affordable to the community, improve the quality of living through education, train people to become economically efficient in livelihood programs and projects, and to lower the percentage rate of out-of-school youth in the community.
Normally, approval for the establishment of a new school takes a long time. But the collective effort of the communities, Parents-Teachers Association (PTA), DepEd, private associations and individuals, non-government organizations (NGOs), and the LGUs hastened the process. Thus, the first extension school of the ANCHS was established in Barangay Cabacanan, which was identified as the most accessible site within the Seven Cities area. The school was later renamed Adriano Cabardo National High School in honor of the lot donor. Three more campuses were established in 2008, 2009 and 2010.
The establishment of the high schools closer to the communities allowed the families to reduce their school expenses. It also led to improved academic performance among the students. The high schools also encouraged over-aged (17 and above) individuals to resume their studies and pursue a high school diploma as in the case of the 22-year old mother who graduated Class Valedictorian last March 2011. A total of 809 out-of-school and over-aged individuals were given the opportunity to go back to school because of the program. New schools meant employment opportunities for licensed teachers and 48 were hired.
In the construction of the high schools, community residents contributed bamboo poles or tracts of land. Meanwhile school equipment was provided or purchased through donations and fundraising activities.
The strong leadership of the Local School Board (LSB) was instrumental in the success of the program. The LSB took the lead in conceptualizing, implementing, monitoring and evaluating the program. The PTA and Barangay Council took the lead in the public meetings and consultations, identification of proposed sites, pooling of materials, construction of buildings, and monitoring of progress. In addition, the PTA campaigned for support, raised funds and helped in the completion of the documentary requirements of the DepEd.
On the other hand, the local DepEd took responsibility in the completion of all the required paperwork. Through the LGUCommunity- DepEd partnership, Barangay Officials enhanced their capacity to prioritize projects and efficiently allocate their budget. Local NGOs such as Taus Puso Foundation, Inc. and Tagipusuon Foundation, Inc. were involved in the consultation and implementation process, together with religious groups, youth representatives and senior citizens.
Barangay and Municipal resolutions and ordinances were passed adopting the establishment of the secondary schools through the “Hugpong Barangay, Edukasyon Parapit sa Balay”. A bill was also passed in Congress for the Adriano NHS. A Joint Resolution of the Association of Barangay Councils and PTA was passed to ensure that school improvements are implemented and given priority. Provincial School Board resolutions were also passed to support the program.
Eventually, the schools produced 342 graduates who went on to pursue college education through scholarships and work student programs.
The Department of Education later ranked Bancal National High School as 2nd and 3rd in the search for Outstanding Schools in the 2nd Congressional District in 2009 and 2010, respectively. Constructing four secondary schools in a municipality within five years may seem impossible for other LGUs. But through Hugpong Barangay, Edukasyon Parapit sa Balay, the people of Alimodian showed that innovation and dedicated action can bring about the desired results.