This Documentary Shines a Light on the Heroism of Public School Teachers During the Pandemic

There are teachers who go above and beyond, cross rivers, and travel far to give each student access to quality education.
IMAGE TEACH FOR PHILIPPINES

In time for National Teachers’ Month, non-profit organization Teach for the Philippines (TFP) celebrates its 10th year anniversary with the release of Kilapsaw, a 30-minute documentary that features the inspiring stories of public school teachers and students from all over the country, especially during the time of the COVID-19 pandemic. Anchored on the theme “Ripples of Impact,” Kilapsaw  pays tribute to the country’s education frontliners: teachers who go above and beyond, cross rivers, and travel far to give each student access to quality education.

TFP aims to ensure that no student gets left behind through excellent, inclusive, and relevant education. TFP’s Fellowship, Ambassadors, and Public School Teacher Pathways programs have deployed more than 300 highly-skilled and multi-talented young professionals and leaders across 100 public schools in in the country. 

The organization has reached 82,000 public school students in the last 10 years to meet Philippine public schools’ concerns and supply the system with more highly-trained and skilled teachers.

“The documentary hopes to honor the connections that we have built and nurtured throughout our ten-year journey, our teachers and partners who have made a dent in our society to ensure that no student gets left behind,” said Mavie Ungco, TFP’s Chief Operations Officer.

 “This project is a token of our deep appreciation for our teachers and the support that we have received from our partners in the past years.”

Kilapsaw, which is the Filipino translation of “ripples”, was produced by Independent Minds Productions and echoes the experiences and stories of public school teachers and students during the time when learning became difficult and challenging, especially in far flung areas where most students do not have proper access to reliable internet. 

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The documentary also showed the need to address the learning crisis in the country. However, despite these realities, the film anchored on stories of resilience and gave snippets of hope for a better and reformed educational system in the Philippines.

Stories from the Ground

Kilapsaw was shot in different TFP partner schools and communities, namely Makati and Quezon City in Metro Manila, Victorias City in Negros Occidental, and the municipality of Del Carmen in Siargao, Surigao del Norte.

“The challenge of education equity and the work of education transformation cannot be solved overnight or even in ten years. It is complex and multi-faceted, and this was compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic.” Ungco explained. “But seeing the hard work of our public school teachers, our partner communities’ growth, and our government partners’ commitment to positive change inspires us to push even further and to do our part by reaching more vulnerable children across the country. As we say in TFP: we go where we are needed.”

The documentary narrated experiences from other former Teacher Fellows, Alumni who went into education policy-making and governance through TFP’s Ambassadors Program, public school teachers, administrators, and even local government officials.

Former Teacher Fellow Czarina Nacionales, fondly called by her students as ‘Cher Czar, taught in Victorias Elementary School (VES) in Victorias City, Negros Occidental during the onset of the pandemic. In the documentary, she shared how difficult it was for her to reach students, a time when the modality of learning shifted from face-to-face classes to distance learning.

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“I think the main challenge was not having an internet connection,” ‘Cher Czar shared. “Nalulungkot ako kasi malaking school yung VES, pero mga 30 na estudyante lang ang nakakapasok sa online classes ko weekly.”

(“I was sad because even though VES was a big school, only 30 students can attend my online classes weekly.”)

Teachers at Home and in the Community

Several parent- and student-beneficiaries of TFP’s subprograms on community engagement, functional literacy, and life skills development were also featured. Nanay Jen, for instance, is a parent from Del Carmen, Siargao. She shared how she juggled being a barangay health worker and tutor for children in the community.

“Nagtataka lang po ako, bakit yung bata ko lang po yung nag-aaral? Napag-alaman ko na karamihan pala dito ay hindi pala marunong bumasa at sumulat,” Nanay Jen shared in the documentary. “Sabi ko kung tuturuan ko sila, saan naman ako kukuha ng gamit ko? Kaya ang naisip ko may plywood naman kami. Yung plywood, naging pader at blackboard namin, tapos yung ginawa ko pong chalk, uling po.”

(“I was wondering why my kid was the only one who was studying. I knew then that most of the kids in our community cannot read or write,” Nanay Jean shared in the documentary. “I thought that if I teach them, where will I get the supplies and materials needed? That’s when I thought of using plywood as our blackboard and charcoal as my chalk.”)

Nanay Jen is only one of thousands of parents and guardians whom TFP was able to train and guide on how to teach at home, or in their communities, through the help of contextualized programs before and during the onset of the pandemic. These capacity-building programs were especially helpful, considering millions of Filipino children were forced to stay at home, and their parents taking on the role of being teachers.

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Sustainable and informed change

In a span of 10 years, TFP’s impact can be seen through its partnerships with members of the Philippine public school system. Sustainability and innovation are at the heart of their mission, especially with the onset of the pandemic where they had to pivot and continue to deploy Fellows where they are needed.

 

TFP’s Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer Clarissa Delgado emphasized this in the documentary, saying that the organization’s network has a very deep understanding of the work that they do and emphasized the need to continue what they have started.

“If we can have a movement of people that has a very nuanced and deeper understanding of change – sustainable and informed change, then we will get where we need to get to,” Delgado said.

Delgado further emphasized the need to continue providing public school teachers the support that they need to be more effective in guiding Filipino students to achieve their goals and dreams.

“We have our Public School Teacher Pathways (PSTP) program, which to me has always been about returning to our roots from Sa Aklat Sisikat Foundation,” Delgado narrated. “We have to understand deeply that there are excellent teachers already within the system and that we can learn so much from them. There are assets already in the system that we can benefit from.”

The documentary ends with a theme song, composed by former TFP Teacher Fellows and sung by Noel Cabangon, that echoes that the organization’s actions are always for the children and for the nation (para sa bata and para sa bayan).

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Kilapsaw will be available to the public online via TFP’s Facebook Page on October 5 at 8:00PM, capping off the National Teachers’ Month. Ahead of the online premiere, other regional screenings will also be available in select venues in Bacolod, Negros Occidental on September 17 and in Del Carmen, Siargao on September 24. In line with its 10th anniversary celebration, TFP also collaborated with local clothing company Linya-Linya to initiate a fundraising campaign featuring their limited edition merchandise, which will be available on the Linya-Linya website on October 1. Similarly, TFP will also open its 2023 Fellowship Program Applications in October, which aims to add even more promising young Filipino leaders to their roster.

Further, the organization is set to launch an education forum in partnership with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) in November, further enriching and continuing its mission to provide excellent, inclusive, and relevant education for all Filipino children.

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