As Elizabeth Warren once said, “A good education is the foundation for a better future.” However, not all children are guaranteed of a good education and consequently, a good future. This has been a challenge for children living in far-flung areas who face different difficulties in going to school – such as walking great lengths to reach their destination, including going up the mountains, or crossing rivers and lakes. Thus, a team from the Department of Education (DepEd) – Schools Division of Antique came up with the project B’was-Damlag Ko, Sakdag N’yo (BKSN), which means “Kinabukasan Ko, Nakasalalay Sa’yo” in the Filipino language, which aims to help children living in far-flung areas in the district of Antique to overcome these challenges and have the chance to receive proper and quality education.

Roselyn Abuela, the Team Leader of Group #10 – D’Mobilizers (the group heading BKSN) was very hands-on with the project. From its conceptualization, planning, until its implementation, Abuela gave everything she got to help make the project a success.

Education for All

Abuela shared that her team believes that “Education is a right, not a privilege.” True enough, their team shares the same belief with many – education should be given to all, and not just the privileged few. For children living in far-flung areas, receiving quality education seems to be a long shot as they grapple with lack of resources.

In February of this year, the B’was-Damlag Ko, Sakdag N’yo project finally came alive. Abuela clarified that BKSN is not only a mere project, but is something that holds a much deeper significance for them. “This is, in reality,” she stated, “a whispering voice of a child seeking, pleading, and yearning for love and support for his/her brighter future.” With children living on mountainsides and some across seas and rivers lacking resources needed to receive proper education, this painful reality became an eye opener for Abuela and caused the spark inside of her to burn brighter than ever.

Last Mile Schools, as defined by DepEd, are public schools which are located in remote and isolated places with intermittent or no electricity or internet access. Out of 175 Last Mile Schools in their division, 10 of which are among the most underprivileged in Antique, owing to their unique geographical and cultural contexts, and thus making them the perfect target recipient of the project. B’was-Damlag Ko, Sakdag N’yo aims to give every indigenous child an accessible, relevant, quality, and life-changing education. The B’was-Damlag Ko, Sakdag N’yo project aims to maximize the involvement of stakeholders in the improvement of basic services and learning outcomes of 10 priority last mile schools. Particularly, the project aims to close at least two resource gaps of the 10 identified schools through active, strategic, and sustained resource mobilization.

Not-so Overnight Changes

Like they say, Rome was not built in a day. You cannot finish a work of art in a day. More importantly, you cannot make and rush changes over night. Like all things, change also takes time.

Abuela shared how the B’was-Damlag Ko, Sakdag N’yo project came to be. She shared that there were two stages of the process: the Pre-Implementation Stage and the Implementation Stage. The first stage included the conceptualization of the project and finalization of its design, data collection and validation, introduction to the school and stakeholders, and the establishment of Division Partnership Council and Technical Working Group. The latter stage included the mobilization of stakeholders and potential partners, and the on-going monitoring and adjustment of the program.

Ever since its implementation, the project has already reached numerous milestones, which have greatly helped in easing the burden of the priority schools which are already behind other schools in terms of their basic services and facilities.  Some of the accomplishments that came about through the project are: facilitation of the repair of the Teachers’ Quarter of Caloy-ahan Primary School; generated funds from Juan Huwaran books for the 10 Last Mile Schools;  secured commitment of support for the “Kain Po” Feeding Program from the RSPo Foundation, Grollier International, Inc. and Rotary International, Inc.; received a cash donation amounting to 20,000 pesos from Friends from Korea for the repair of the comfort rooms of Caloy-ahan Primary School; strengthened commitment of parents and barangay officials to establish Teachers’ Living Quarters at Caloy-ahan Primary School; secured approval for the proposal for one additional teacher item for P. Javier Primary School;  endorsement to the One Meralco Foundation electrification project to address the electrification gap of P. Javier Primary School; secured budget allocation for land titling of the Capayas Primary School; provided laminating film for instructional materials for the Caloy-ahan Primary School; and conducted First Aid Training for the Capayas Primary School.

On the other hand, another major and innovative feature of the project is the creation and eventual institutionalization of the Resource Needs Management System (RNMS). It was conceptualized by the Social Mobilization Unit under the School Governance and Operations Division, and developed by the Information Technology students of the University of Antique. As said by Abuela, the RNMS “will have a great impact on resource generation activities not only of the last mile schools, but of all those schools in the Division of Antique.” Abuela’s team believes that this will further contribute to the accomplishment of the mission and goals of DepEd.

Then and Now

Of course, if you are part of something as honorable as B’was-Damlag Ko, Sakdag N’yo, you get to have new learnings along the way, and even a new perspective in life.

Aside from her realization upon seeing the children’s ways of life, Abuela further shared how the project helps her in becoming a better person. “The BKSN project helped me discover and develop my capabilities, inspired me to take the extra miles in doing things, taught me to face the challenges squarely, made me conquer my fears, and made my journey of making a difference in the lives of the Last Mile Schools children, teachers, and communities more fulfilling and meaningful,” she explained.

Abuela also explained that B’was-Damlag Ko, Sakdag N’yo gave her a sense of fulfillment which gave her a purpose in life, which is to serve the underprivileged young learners. A leader’s job is to influence its team, and that is what exactly Abuela was able to do, along with gaining more confidence in dealing with other groups and people. Aside from these intrinsic impacts the project was able to give her, external factors were also brought about by it such as additional grade level offering and teaching items; additional school supplies; Balay-Darayunan (Teachers’ Quarter); and tapping multiple potential partners like Nestle Philippines for MILO PE kits, and Friends from Korea.

Pandemic Blues

Ever since the global health crisis struck the Philippines, it definitely caused many missed opportunities.

The COVID-19 pandemic is indeed a huge struggle for everyone. Abuela and her team feared that even though preparations were already made, the quality of education might get compromised because of the virus.

Furthermore, Abuela explained that because of the pandemic, they were not able to move easily and get things done in an instant. Because of the rising number of COVID-positive cases and the restrictions brought by the pandemic, the timeline of their projects was affected, causing them to reschedule some activities. Even so, Abuela assured that the implementation of their activities are still on-going. “Tuloy-tuloy lang yung implementation natin kahit na, syempre, may pandemic,” she said.

In the same way that it takes a village to raise a child, B’was-Damlag Ko, Sakdag N’yo would not be possible without the efforts and support of the Development Academy of the Philippines (DAP) and its leadership development program for the DepEd Antique which was sponsored by the Office of Deputy Speaker Hon. Loren Legarda. Abuela expressed her gratitude to both, calling them “God-laden instruments toward the desired changes.” She also thanked her team, the Local Government Units (LGUs), School Heads and personnel, the parents, partners, and everyone who did their parts in making the project a success.
The children are the future – and as much as they are the future, they need good education to help them build a better future for themselves. With the help of B’was-Damlag Ko, Sakdag N’yo, underprivileged children living in remote areas are given the chance to build a better future by getting proper education. They, too, are given the chance to have coloring books no money could ever amount to, and they are ready to paint their future by the number, one color at a time.