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Promoting literacy in Cotabato Province through ‘Pagbasa Pag-asa Program’

One of the most valuable development agenda of the provincial government of Cotabato is the education and literacy of its children, considered the future of the next generation of the province.

With the normalization of schools after the COVID-19 pandemic, the provincial government launched the “Pagbasa Pag-asa Program” in August this year, in partnership with the Department of Education-Cotabato Division and in line with its flagship reading program known as Project RISE, or Reading Interventions to Strengthen Education.

Jayderick Ferolin, provincial coordinator of the Pagbasa Pag-asa Program, orients the volunteer teachers of the 1st District of Cotabato Province about the goals of the program. (Photo:Information and Development Communication Division-PGO Cotabato)

Jayderick Ferolin, provincial program coordinator, said the Pagbasa Pag-asa Program, implemented in support of the National Reading Program and the Department of Education’s recovery plan, focuses on reading as one of the major competencies that a pupil should learn in their early formative years in school.

“The reading activity was held in schools while there were instances where our volunteer teachers set up makeshift classrooms to make the program more accessible to our learners,” he said.

The Pagbasa Pag-asa Program, a 44-day massive reading program, has a total of 500 school beneficiaries from the far-flung areas of Cotabato province.

Ferolin emphasized that the program centers on bridging the learning gaps among pupils in grades 3 and 5 in identified schools as a result of the suspension of face-to-face classes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said that there were at least 15 to 30 non-readers in each barangay beneficiary school. However, some of their teams were able to teach at least 50 non-readers in other schools.

A volunteer teacher at Tagbac Central Elementary School in the municipality of Magpet, Cotabato Province, encouraged her non-reader pupils to follow her lead in one of the reading activities she prepared for the school. The school is one of 500 school beneficiaries of the provincial government’s Pagbasa Pag-asa Program, which highlights the importance of reading in advancing literacy in the province. (Photo:Jemz Evangelio, Public Schools District Supervisor, Magpet East District)

As part of its contribution to the program, the DepEd-Cotabato Division helped identify the manpower, mobilizing at least 500 “magtutudlo sa barangay [village teachers]” to assist non-readers in improving their reading skills.

Meanwhile, Merian Cansad, a village teacher from Barangay Bato, Makilala town, said that despite the short time, many pupils in their barangay were able to learn to read and write.

“I thank Governor Emmylou Mendoza for the opportunity given to me to be part of the program because, as a teacher, it is very fulfilling to us when we see an improvement in the literacy of our learners,” she said.

The provincial government makes sure that, aside from providing for the needs of the schools and implementing educational programs such as the mobile library and the summer kid’s peace camp, children’s literacy remains one of its top priorities.

Ellyn Maningo, a teacher at Payong-Payong Elementary School in Pigcawayan, shared the dedication of learners in their area to really cope with the learning they missed during the pandemic.

“Our learners’ persistence inspired us to do our best in teaching them. Some of our learners even walk seven kilometers every day for them to attend the reading program,” Maningo said.

Volunteer teachers and school heads gathered during the culmination activity of the provincial government’s Pagbasa Pag-asa Program. The provincial government and the DepEd-Cotabato Division recognized the efforts of the “magtutudlo sa barangay”, or village teachers, for their efforts and determination in improving the reading capabilities of non-readers, leading to the success of the program. (Photo:Information and Development Communication Division-PGO Cotabato)

The program, which culminated in the first week of October, has a total fund of P8,096,000 allocated to the payment of honoraria amounting to P16,192 for each volunteer teacher.

Roxanne Lastino, a mother of a Grade 3 schooler in Barangay Tumbao, Banisilan, said she is happy and grateful to the provincial government for choosing their barangay as a beneficiary of the Pagbasa Pag-asa Program.

“The program is a great help to us parents, particularly me, a working mother. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, my son Rico had not really learned how to read by the time the schools were closed due to restrictions,” she lamented.

She explained that, as a working mother, she doesn’t have the luxury of time to teach her son, even if she wanted to do it so much.

“[But] with the implementation of the Pagbasa Pag-asa Program, my son can now identify letters and their sounds,” Lastino said happily, expressing the hope that the program will continue to be implemented in the province every summer vacation. (SJDM – PIA Cotabato Province)

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