WHILE other children in urban areas enjoy the advancements in technology, some pupils in a remote community in Albay have yet to see their first pencil, or even ice cream.
"Mayroon sa kanila, pagpasok sa eskwelahan, hindi alam kung ano ang lapis, pati ice cream, kasi wala namang ganun dito sa bundok. Mahirap magturo kasi magsisimula ka talaga sa wala (Some of the students, when they first entered school, they did not even know what a pencil is, or an ice cream, because they have not seen any here in the mountains. It's challenging for us because we have to build on their limited knowledge)," said Ciena Cerdeño, a Grade1 adviser at Sto. Cristo Elementary School in Tiwi, Albay.
Cerdeño is among the Sto. Cristo Elementary School teachers, who, for four years now, brave the "habal-habal" every day to teach. On weekends, they spend extra time and walk for several hours to visit their students in their homes and help ensure the students retain their interest in school.
Making the conditions more challenging is the economic situation of the families in the area.
"Lalong mahirap mag-aral kung kumakalam yung tyan mo, kaya madalas, iniintindi na lang namin kung bakit hindi ganun kadali para sa mga esudyante na makuha yung mga lesson. Makikita mo yung baon nila para sa lunch, minsan isang pirasong maliit na tuyo, minsan ketchup lang, o kapag wala talaga, maglalaro na lang sila hanggang sa oras na ulit ng klase (It becomes a lot more difficult for our students to learn when they are hungry, so we try to be as understanding as we can. Sometimes, you will see them eating only a piece of dried fish for lunch, sometimes just ketchup on rice, or if none at all, they just spend the lunch break playing until it is time for classes again)," Cerdeño said.
The situation has driven AboitizPower to double its efforts in helping its host communities. Through its subsidiary AP Renewables, Inc. (APRI), the company recently distributed more than 2,100 packs of High-Energy Biscuits (HEBs) to students of Sto. Cristo Elementary School and seven other public elementary schools in Tiwi.
These host schools are also the beneficiaries of APRI's Read to Succeed program, a sustained initiative to help advance the reading skills of students.
APRI VP for Corporate Services Noemi Sebastian shared how they came up with the Read to Succeed program.
"APRI did a profiling of its geothermal power plants' host schools and found out that the reading scores of students are below the standards of the Philippine Informal Reading Inventory (Phil-IRI)," Sebastian said. "We then sought ways to provide better solutions in helping improve the reading comprehension of the students in our host communities."
The Read to Succeed program kicked off with trainings on Effective Reading Instructions and Creative Storytelling in Batangas, Laguna, and Albay. Moving forward, APRI is also set to donate library kits and conduct various reading activities through the help of its team member volunteers.
Aside from Read to Succeed, APRI also launched the Cleanergy Ambassadors' Training Program, a learning opportunity to become professional tour guides at AboitizPower's Cleanergy Center in Batangas.
The pioneer batch of Cleanergy youth ambassadors consisted of 30 senior high school students from Alaminos and Buenaventura E. Fandialan Memorial Integrated National High Schools in Laguna. They underwent a tour of the Cleanergy Center and a working Geothermal Power Plant, a comprehensive discussion of more than 50 power-related interactive displays and presentations, and an actual tour guiding as the culminating activity.
"I learned a lot from the training and I am very thankful for the opportunity to showcase my skills despite my impairment," Kevin Basset, one of the students who has a left clip, said.
These efforts underscore the high value that AboitizPower places on education. Apart from its active participation in Brigada Eskwela, together with its business units all over the country, the company continues to explore opportunities to contribute more to its host communities in a sustainable way.
Also among AboitizPower’s business units are Subic EnerZone (SEZ) in Zambales and San Fernando Electric Light and Power Company in Pampanga, which likewise have various community programs. (PR)