The School Feeding Program at the Baclayan Elementary School has successfully pulled most of the indigenous children in and around the village into school. Getting them one step further by ensuring that they are at par with their non-Mangyan peers, who become their classmates when they go to high school, is another challenge we address through our scholarship program.
All grade 6 elementary graduates from Baclayan Elementary School become our top priority for accommodation into our scholarship program, which serves more than 260 poor families in Puerto Galera in sending their children to school. After the Baclayan students graduate from elementary school during their summer vacation, we supplement their classroom learning with computer tutorials, math and science classes, library sessions, and sports activities at Stairway’s Learning and Resource Center.
Our Baclayan high school scholars receive intensive support and intervention through regular tutorials held during the weekdays and the weekends. In 2017 pre-assessment tests for grade 6 students were introduced, which allowed for the students to be grouped according to ability and tutorials tailored specifically for their needs. Weekday tutorials are carried out at their school with fellow scholars and other academically strong student volunteers, who act as their peer mentors. These are 45 minute to an hour after school sessions, wherein the Baclayan scholars primarily work and accomplish their school assignments and projects before going up to their village, where there is no electricity, making it impossible to study after dark at 6 to 7 pm.
Weekend tutorials run from Friday afternoon to Saturday night at Stairway’s camp/farm house in Baclayan with intensive reading, mathematics and English lessons coupled with practical gardening and occasional cultural activities. Aside from being a venue for homework and studying, it is also a social get together, which is often attended by international volunteers, forcing the local students to communicate in English.
All Baclayan scholars are consistently involved and participate in Stairway’s Youth For Change Camps, which offer them interaction and exposure to non-Mangyan and international students coming from different international schools and even prestigious universities like Harvard and Yale. They also take part in sessions on reproductive health and receive various forms of follow-on support as they embark on their journey into high school, including continuing weekend tutorials throughout the year and provision of essential school supplies, uniform and a daily lunch.
The impact of the program leaves little doubt amongst people who have been exposed to Mangyan children before. They are traditionally very timid, shy and carry with them many inferiority complexes. Over the past years we have witnesses an amazing development where Mangyan scholars have overcome their usual shyness, timidity and feeling of “lesser-than” to non-Mangyan people. Through the scholarship program, their sense of identity and self-esteem has been significantly enhanced, and thereby they are gradually overcoming the hurt and the damage of discrimination.