Fri, 22 Sep 2023

CHEERS TO Rappler's feature on a volunteer educator of indigenous peoples who passed the March 2023 Licensure Examination for Teachers (LET). The story went beyond the usual plaudits for achievers - it highlighted the significance of volunteer work for the marginalized.

What's the Story?

Reporter Jezreel Ines introduced Micah Simon, a graduate of Bachelor of Arts in Philippine Studies from the University of the Philippines Diliman. Simon started teaching in indigenous people communities as a volunteer in 2017, when she was still in her undergraduate program.

Simon spent her university days with the Lumad Bakwit School, teaching Indigenous Filipinos who were displaced because of conflict in certain Mindanao areas. She also volunteered at the Aeta Learning Center in Sitio Gayaman, Bamban, Tarlac province, teaching literacy and numeracy skills to children and adults through Liwanag at Dunong, a nongovernment organization.

She currently teaches senior high school students and is one of the 72,824 teachers who successfully passed the exam out of 163,168 examinees nationwide.

Throughout Rappler's piece, Simon emphasized her fulfillment with volunteer work, saying the experience allowed her to better understand the realities of education in the Philippines. Even with her current day job, Simon said she would continue volunteering as long as there are communities and individuals who want to learn.

What the Story Got Right

Aside from featuring Simon's views about volunteer work, the piece also provided additional context to support her statement that the Philippines is facing a crisis in education.

The report cited a 2022 study by the World Bank which showed that by the age of 10, 91 percent of children in the Philippines are still struggling to read and comprehend a simple, age-appropriate text. Moreover, the World Bank reported that the Philippines spends US$569 (around PHP32,200) on each primary school student, which is 83.5% less than the average for the East Asia and Pacific region.

Simon underscores that becoming a teacher requires more than just having a license. She believes that education is a fundamental human right that should not be denied anyone. She calls on the government to invest in equitable access to education for Indigenous communities. She hopes that more teachers will volunteer to empower and educate marginalized groups in the country.

Why Is this Important?

The report highlights advocacy as a worthwhile extra-curricular work and a valuable foundation for aspiring professionals.

Unfortunately, the country's hostile environment against advocates puts them at risk of being red-tagged by state forces, who label them as terrorists and communists. This also spreads stigma against these volunteers and advocates, as misinformed citizens similarly label them as insurgents or government destabilizers. Simon herself admitted that she was not exempt from the baseless accusations.

Media tend to pick up stories about Indigenous communities when these involve conflict and violence, and often with the military as the dominant source. But media must appreciate the good work being done by volunteers in these communities, which should lead to a better understanding of the culture and the immediate needs of Indigenous Filipinos.

Media's reach can reinforce positive portrayals of these advocates and promote inclusivity for marginalized groups.

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