The case of the stolen ceiling fans
By Marge Francia
UNICEF believes in the important role of the community in bringing about results for children. In a barangay in Northern Samar, parents, teachers, students and local officials work together to give children a better future.
In Libas Elementary School in Northern Samar province, 403 students and 11 teachers from preschool to Grade 6 study in dilapidated classrooms, share one comfort room and run the risk of being hit by floods and landslides due to its hilly location.
It is even more baffling therefore that some elements from the community had the gall to steal the classroom’s ceiling fans, one of the few remaining valuables that the school owns. The school principal Maribel Formaran decided that these mysterious disappearances and intrusions on the school premises needed to stop, and called on the expert advice of community members to become heroes and protectors of the school.
The fellowship of the Libas knights
Heading this band of defenders is Rosita Mahinay, the Barangay Captain who heads the community with her deep commitment to children’s well-being. She possesses the power to call for special meetings to discuss matters of great import in the barangay. When she heard that the school will be receiving a new classroom, a new toilet, school furniture, playground and library from UNICEF’s French National Committee, she has vowed her to protect these gifts that will be enjoyed by all children in Libas.
“When people from UNICEF came to visit our school, we were told by the principal that we will be given a new comfort room for the children. She asked for help to give our counterpart to improve the school. We immediately discussed this in a special meeting I convened with the barangay council and agreed that we will support this all the way,” the cheerful grandmother said.
Backing Rosita in this gallant undertaking of being Libas Elementary School’s guardians is Andres Cebreros, Barangay Kagawad. Andres is a businessman who owns a construction supply store and has the ability to travel great distances and contribute much-needed hardware for the school.
“Andres helps us readily and without question. When we have our scouting activity he is the one who takes the children to the camping site with his vehicle, and set up temporary tents to help them learn the ways of the scouts,” Principal Formaran said.
“Libas has a special place in my heart because my two young children are studying here. We in the barangay council know that education is important for the children. All parents would want the best for their children, so I do my part to help them,” the noble kagawad says with passion.
We're all in this together
Another brave hero for education is Parent Teachers Association President Marlou Dela Tonga, who has a child enrolled in Grade 3. Marlou has the gift of persuasion to bring parents to action. Every year before school starts, Marlou and other parents, families, teachers and barangay officials embark on a valiant mission called “bayanihan” or “pintakasi,” where they prepare the school by weeding the school yard, buildings fences, cleaning the rooms and repainting the school structures. They also help teachers in the school feeding and fund raising activities.
“We are ready to help the school in any way we can for the benefit of the students,” she emphasizes.
Principal Formaran considers herself very lucky because of the profound commitment and the great cause that these celebrated Libas men and women had decided to champion in their locale.
“We are very thankful because our community leaders are very cooperative. We just call them once and they come right away. The participation in this community has since increased and we teachers are very happy that we have their support,” she beams with pride.
Bright futures and high hopes
This brave league of local officials, parents and teachers have made it their personal mission to safeguard the students and their school, and has shown their mettle by forming a strong alliance with the school officials. Barangay Captain Rosita Mahinay put it succinctly:
“We help the school because it is our duty to help each other. We are in constant communication with the teachers because we also believe that education is important to all children because they are the hope of our nation. The future is in their hands,” she said.
Libas can now look forward to a better and brighter tomorrow for their youth. For as long as this fellowship of school protectors remains strong and devoted to children, Libas Elementary School should never have to worry about stolen ceiling fans ever again.
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Children First Newsletter (Q4 2009 Issue)
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