Real lives

Surviving the mysterious mountain

Rain, rain, go away

Home for Christmas

Safe from harm

UNICEF is coming to town

Below the poverty line

In the line of fire

Touch me not

Breast of the bunch

Practice what you teach

Starting over

Breastfeeding in Times of Crisis - Caring for Mothers and the Littlest Survivors

Twenty years of the CRC

After the flood

Under pressure

Time for class

Voices of youth

Nurturing children’s creativity in trying times

Jaime's Wish

A true story of a mother’s love

A better future for Filipino children

A UNICEF Champion for Education: Perseveranda So, 1956-2009

The LLK way of promoting health habits in schools

Watching over mothers

Art Baldestoy, the gentle giant of the Grade 2 class

Rochelle Canete, future policewoman

Judy Ann and the perennial flood

Learning to play and playing to learn

The case of the stolen ceiling fans

For whom the bell tolls

More than the ABCs and 123s

Days of Peace in Mindanao: Together, it can be done

Days of Peace in Mindanao: No more bloody wars


Art Baldestoy, the gentle giant of the Grade 2 class

© UNICEF Philippines/2008/Francia
Art Baldestoy towers above his classmates in Grade 2. The 18 year old student chose to go back to school and pursue his dreams.

By Marge Francia

Millions of Filipino children are unable to continue their studies because of poverty. UNICEF supports and capacitates schools that bring back students with a renewed zest for learning, regardless of age or sex.

The Grade 2 classroom in Acereda Elementary School is like any other classroom you will find in the Philippines. It is filled with students eager to learn and become doctors, teachers, lawyers and engineers. Take a second look however, and you will notice something, or someone, that stands out.

Art Baldestoy, 18 years old, is one of around 20 over age students from the 357 that attend Acereda Elementary School. Towering over his classmates, the timid teenager quietly sits in class poring over his lessons. He is shy and withdrawn, and very few know of the ordeal that he has gone through at such a young age.

A few years ago, Art was a malnourished, sickly child with nowhere to go. His parents got sick and both died, and his siblings married in their young age. The child was left to fend for himself when he was found by Barangay Kagawad Felicitas Tolitol and her family.

“My husband saw him giving food to his brothers and sisters. He was really thin, about 13 years old then. We took him to be baptized. We asked him if he wanted to live with us and that he only needed to share in the family chores. Now, he calls me mother and we treat him like he is family. He is an obedient child,” Felicitas recalls.

Stones for sale

Just a few years ago Art used to collect gravel from the mountains with his older siblings. He would lift heavy cans filled with gravel and transport them by boat before selling them. He had to fill 52 big biscuit cans of gravel to earn P 180 pesos, about 3 US dollars. This he did with his frail, young body. Because of poverty, his family did not make education a priority. This story is the same for many young boys and girls who live in Acereda whose families sell copra and work in the ricefields.

“Even if these children wanted to study, they couldn’t because their parents did not want them to. I saw that this child really wants to study and told him about the importance of education. If he needs to vote, I don’t have to go with him because he would know how to read and write. It’s okay with him because there are other students like him. Sometimes there are also parents who attend literacy classes here in Acereda,” Felicitas explains.

The blossoming adolescent

The motivation to learn to read and write became more pronounced when Art started having crushes, and would show his adoptive mother the letters he wanted to send to the girl he likes.

“I told him, so now you know what it feels like to not have a proper education. I told him, there, that’s one of the reasons you need to stay in school. You need to be able to vote, to know what the road signs say, to send out letters to your crushes. Now, he goes to school with my own child and studies his lessons well,” she beams with pride.

“He is very quiet but he I can see that he is determined. He can follow the lessons we teach him,” Teacher Maura Arlita Sayde says.

From being a frail and sickly child, Art now has high hopes for a bright future. Asked about what he wants to be someday, he shyly replies, “I want to be a singer.” Who knows, maybe in five or ten years, Northern Samar might be singing songs of triumph for the one Nortehanon who has surmounted all odds to become all that wants to be.

For more information on what UNICEF Philippines does to improve education in the country, click here.





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