By Nirva’ana Delacruz
“Nine-tenths of education is encouragement.”
– Anatole France
Unstoppable, relentless optimism. This is another way to describe the work in AJKFI, and it’s especially true in the Alternative Learning System (ALS) Program that has been aiming to get homeless and other drug war victims through school through weekly 1-hour classes.
For the homeless, the idea of learning is a strange luxury. Even more so for someone like Adrian Abraham Apare, a 32-year old house boy who joined AJKFI’s ALS Program, unable to read nor write. When ALS teacher Stella Talco first introduced herself to Adrian via Facebook messenger, she was surprised to receive a voice message in return. It was then that she discovered that her new student couldn’t read a single letter.
‘A happy shock’
Joining his first virtual ALS class in October 2021, Adrian or Ayan, as he is fondly called, first learned the alphabet. According to Stella, to reinforce the learning, she sent him videos he could rewatch to practice his reading. “Kahit sobrang nakakaumay na ‘yan, ulit ulitin mo (Even if you’re sick and tired of it, just keep on replaying it,” she recalls telling him.
There is truth in Colleen Wilcox’s words “Teaching is the greatest act of optimism” because by December of the same year, Ayan was reading and writing. He sent his first Facebook message to his teacher—a happy shock. “Nagulat ako. One time, nag-update s’ya sakin nag-chat s’ya, ‘yung mismong message talaga. Tinawagan ko, ‘Marunong ka na mabasa?’ (I was shocked. One time, he updated me, sending an actual message. I called him, ‘You can read already?’),” shares Stella in a recent interview.
Motivated even more
Months after, Stella is still blown away by the transformation. “Sobrang wow…blessed. ‘Di ko talaga ma-explain, kasi sobrang down na down ka dahil ang dami mong iniisip, tapos narinig mo na marunong na s’yang magbasa. Parang nawala lahat ng mga problema mo kasi may achievement ka. (A big wow…blessed. I really can’t explain it, because I was so down with a lot on my mind then I suddenly heard that he could finally read. It’s as if all my problems vanished because I’ve achieved something.)
Today, Ayan continues to make progress, and Stella is even more motivated to introduce struggling students into the brave, new world of learning. “Target ko talaga is maparami talaga ang mga estudyante and ‘yung mga estudyanteng ‘yung heart nila na pumasa, na tulungan ‘yung sarili din nila (My target is really to have more students, and the kind who really have a heart to persevere and to help themselves),” she explains.
Truly, in Kalinga, we eat optimism for breakfast.