Learning continuity amid and after emergencies
A child development worker and a grade school teacher reflect on their Super Typhoon Odette (Rai) experiences and the importance of learning continuity in emergencies.
For Erlinda Alberca, a child development worker who oversees the Barangay Child Development Center (CDC) of Hanginan, Maasin, Southern Leyte, picking up the pieces after Typhoon Odette (Rai) was really difficult because their barangay’s facility for early learners was left in shambles. Just as CDCs and schools were preparing to reopen after almost two years of COVID-19 lockdowns, the super typhoon badly hit Southern Leyte.
“Our daycare center was badly destroyed, including all our learning materials. It was really hard, especially since we were coming from two school years of closure that had us relying on activity sheets. I had to be resourceful to be able to carry on for the children,” Erlinda says.
Being resourceful meant reprinting activity sheets and going house-to-house to ensure that the learning of the pre-school children in their barangay would not be put on hold. This is very crucial because CDCs ensure that children 3-4 years of age are able to access early learning opportunities, as well as health and nutrition interventions for their holistic development. As such, they are prepared for the more formal and structured K-12 learning environment. “Since our daycare center hasn’t been fixed until now, I walk even to the farthest areas within our barangay to bring weekly activity sheets because some parents don’t have the time to come to me;” Erlinda shares, knowing how important the role of CDCs to their children’s cognitive and socio-emotional development.
Six months on, the entire barangay hall, where the daycare center is also located, still looks like it has just been damaged by a really strong typhoon. Across the road is a makeshift tent that serves as a temporary barangay station. A small portion of it serves as Erlinda’s “office” where parents can get and submit weekly activity sheets. “I look forward to the day that our daycare center is finally fixed because it’s really hard to do my job effectively without it. They say that the children are supposed to be back in August, so I really hope that the center is ready by then.”
While the daycare center is still non-operational, the nearby Hanginan Elementary School has already opened its doors to learners on February 14, 2022, nearly two months after Odette. While some of the classrooms are still not fit for learning, the faculty members made do with what they were left with.
Dana Jean Arayan, a Grade 5 teacher, says that reopening schools is urgently needed after the long closure. “Modular learning, especially where we are, was really challenging. It’s not the same as in-person learning. After Odette, our children here seemed to have lost interest in answering modules because the state of their homes was depressing.”
A few weeks into conducting face-to-face classes, though, she and her fellow teachers noticed that the literacy and numeracy of their students have taken a backslide. “With modular learning, most of the parents served as learning facilitators and they were the ones who answered the modules. Now that it’s back to face-to-face, it is apparent that a lot of students have had learning loss the past two years.”
As the Philippines is identified as one of the most climate change vulnerable countries in the world, with an average of 20 typhoons per year, Dana believes that it is essential for learning to be continuous amid and after emergencies. That is why she and Erlinda are very thankful to UNICEF and its partners for the training that they have undergone on education in emergencies.
“I have learned that ensuring learning continuity during emergencies or crises entails a whole-of-community approach. Every stakeholder has a role and education is a shared responsibility. As our school’s Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (DRRM) Coordinator, I am working on a proposal that I hope we are able to implement next school year,” Dana shares, as she reiterates the fulfillment of every child’s right to education.
Erlinda agrees and stresses that it is as equally as crucial to keep CDCs open amid emergencies to be able to fulfill the right that Dana pointed out. “We were taught how to fully prepare for typhoons and other emergencies to mitigate learning loss. I am grateful for the new knowledge and I am committed to applying everything that I have learned.”
“I have learned that ensuring learning continuity during emergencies or crises entails a whole-of-community approach. Every stakeholder has a role and education is a shared responsibility."