Some students must climb hills and cross rivers to attend a school with only five teachers. Many fail to go to class, in fear for their safety and health. As a result, many students aren’t able to read or write.
Despite all of this, Joemell ‘Dagul’ Lorayna, 12, is empowering his community through bringing the ‘classroom’ to the homes of his fellow schoolmates.
Joemell is a student volunteer for the ‘Balsa Basa’ program where ‘little teachers’ go and teach at the homes of fellow students from San Jose Elementary School in Donsol, Sorsogon.
Many of the students who are visited by these ‘little teachers’ don’t often attend class due to the distant and sometimes dangerous journey.
“Our school is far into the mountains. At our school here, there’s a lot of kids who don’t know how to read. Our other classmates can’t go to school because of how far it is, while some have to swim across the river,” said Joemell in Filipino.
For one hour, the ‘little teachers’ have to ride a rickety and unstable raft to cross the river without any life-vests. Joemell said that sometimes they ‘have to get in the water to push the raft faster’. By no means is it enjoyable—Joemell said that his ‘arms would hurt because of how cold the water is’.
Angelica Razo, a classmate of Joemell, has been taught by him for four years, ever since they were in grade 2. “We’re not ashamed that ‘Dagul’ is teaching us, what’s important is that we’re able to read.”
The ability to read came at a young age for Joemell, “I remember I learned how to read when my mom would read stories to me. I also remember that I would write poems about ‘likas na yaman’ or ‘wealth of nature’. He said his poems would make his mom very happy whenever she read them.”
Joemell said that he takes teaching very seriously, especially when dealing with kids who don’t pay attention. He bases his volunteer work on one principle: “If a person doesn’t know how to read, then they can get lied to and cheated on.”
According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, 1 in 10 Filipinos, between the ages of 6 and 24, cannot go to school. In other words, there are 24 million young Filipinos who can’t attend school.
Watch the story below.