Interview with Estancia’s Principal

Life in Estancia One Year After Haiyan

Article by: Danielle Limcaoco

After Typhoon Haiyan demolished school buildings, forcibly unhinged roofs, and ruined books, computers, and other resources in the Estancia Central Elementary School ­ just one of the countless institutions devastated by the super Typhoon ­ ISM came in to lend a helping hand. Ever since November 2013, ISM has been donating money to rebuild collapsed classrooms, and sent students to check up on its progress and plan activities for the children.

This year was no different. After our group of around 16 ISM students to Estancia visited Estancia, we conducted an interview with Principal Jerry and two of his fellow teachers. Our discoveries were not only enlightening, but also, at times, surprising.

Firstly, we learnt that they wanted resources rather than buildings. The drive to rebuild classrooms and offices have subsumed donations to fill in these rooms. The Estancia Central Elementary school is starved of textbooks, storybooks, projectors, screens, and even a proper water distribution system. In fact, the school has a total of 6 computers…to be used by over 3000 students. That’s more than 500 students per computer. The teachers also explain that this creates an educational rift ­ they are forced to only let certain classes, such as the advanced science class, have access to these computers, limiting the opportunities for the other children. This drought of educational tools hamper students from building their way to success.

Secondly, they explained why the movement to help the school land safely back on its feet is taking a long time. Because all the new buildings and resources must be typhoon­safe, rebuilding new classrooms and facilities is significantly more expensive. An average classroom building would take around 600,000 pesos to build, but a typhoon­safe one costs double: around 1.2 million pesos. Although the school is getting donations to reconstruct from many other organizations, such as the Ayala Foundation, other NGOs, and the local government, they still need more monetary aid.

Thirdly, when asked what his three main wishes were, principal Jerry’s first response was quite surprising. “A fence to surround the whole school,” he grins. Although a fence may seem like an unusual request, principal Jerry explained it is important to help ensure “security.” Last year, someone generously donated a new projector, which was, unfortunately, recently stolen. Without this fence, the donations and supplies we give the school may be for naught. He finished his wish list by asking for more educational resources and buildings.

Lastly, principal Jerry and the two teachers hope that in around 5 years time, the school will not only reach, but also surpass, its initial state before the typhoon. Their optimistic outlook on the school’s future is inspiring, especially when coupled by their fervent determination to get there. The teachers don’t only rely on donations ­ they voluntarily spend their time outside of the classrooms by helping rebuild buildings, fences, and constructions of the like. When asked why they do this, they answer, without hesitation, “for the students.” Their genuine commitment to help their pupils learn and grow is undeniable.

Painted on one of the walls of the school is the phrase: “This Will Rise Again.” Undoubtedly, the hope, willfulness, and commitment the principal and teachers have for Estancia future, coupled with the donations from ISM and other organizations, will make this phrase a reality, as long as well all take the proper steps forward.