There are many restrictions that hinder children and adult learners in attending formal school and mainstream education, reasons may include physical disabilities, geographical boundaries, limitation in finances and resources, and other intrinsic and extrinsic factors that affect their educational journey. However, because of the advent of non-formal education (including the Alternative Learning System), people are now being given with wider and viable access towards education. Pangarap Foundation Inc. is one of those medium and enabling entities that provide entry to the people who have the dedication, interest and goal of pursuing quality learning despite the challenges within their lives. This is where Alternatives Learning System (ALS) of non-formal education will come in as a hero and lifesaver to make quality learning possible despite the mentioned challenges possible.

Coombs and Ahmed (1974:8) defined nonformal education as “any organized, systematic, educational activity carried on outside the framework of the formal system to provide selected types of learning to particular subgroups in the population. ALS/nonformal education usually happens outside the walls of a classroom taking place in barangays halls, community learning centers, within school premise or even at home and being managed by learning facilitators, teachers etc.

It was February 28, 2015 when I first experience hands-on and personal volunteering anchored on community outreach and literacy service. In the morning, I was in our site in Quezon City since my department (Sales & Strategic Marketing) launched a residential building and our multi-storey clubhouse together with our clients and city officials. When the sun set high in the middle of sky and after having a very quick lunch, I excused myself (discreetly “escaped” from the event) and drove from Quezon City to Pangarap Foundation’s Community Development Center in Paliparan Site III, Dasmarinas Cavite. I somehow got lost along the way and eventually reached my destination after 3 hours, My exhaustion was easily pulled off and replaced by happiness, excitement and little tenseness when I finally saw the Pangarap Foundation sign heading on their 4-storey building.

I met Ms. Cherry Samson, who is the CDC Coordinator and Education Program Staff of the foundation, and introduced myself, my work, my volunteering intention as a student from UP Open University. I told her that apart from being an academic requirement, I mentioned to her that my last community outreach activity was around in year 2010 and being able to help actually gives me an unexplainable sense of satisfaction and joy. While seated in their library, Ms. Samson, who always wears a warm smile, explained to me the brief background of the foundation, she told me that Panagarap Foundation is an NGO that is organized in Pasay City and Dasmarinas City to provide social, livelihood, spiritual and educational assistance to the children.

After our conversation, I told her that apart from gaining important insight and information about the foundation and its mission, vision, and its current operations, I asked for her permission to actually be part of the foundation’s program by doing a simple and personal literacy service to the present children in their center on that day. Ms. Samson told me that a group of students in the early afternoon did a reading session to the students so I asked if I could also do the same and start an afternoon reading session. Upon immediate approval, she and her assistants gathered 15 students (ages 11 to 15) in their library (4th floor of the building) and arranged rows of chairs and a table in front where I can sit and read a book for everyone. Once everyone had settled, I introduced myself and I asked the students to stand and introduce themselves one-by-one starting with their nickname, age, their hobbies or interests, and their dream job or career in the future (ice breaker) – 15 participants are all scholars (elementary and high school) of the foundation wherein they receive allowance and their tuition fee are being shouldered by the foundation. I read the story “Ibong Adarna” (summarized version for early elementary students) and ended the reading session with a Quizbee-themed recitation to check if they are listening the whole time (more than half of the students haven’t encountered Ibong Adarna yet).  We ended the session by eating snacks altogether capped with light conversation about our daily lives.

My stay in the development center of the foundation lasted for about 2 hours, the session is more on sharing memories in school and talking about themselves than the actual reading and recitation activity. I believe that this kind of approach will make them more involved by making the classroom “student-centered” then “learning-centered” will follow. The short yet positive experience in multigrade classroom interaction taught me to value and appreciate the blessings that I have (tangible and intangible) and make the most out of it by sharing it to others even in the simplest way, and always be part of the society’s solution to its problem.

Reference:
Rogers, Alan. Infed Org. Looking again at non-formal and informal education towards a new paradigm. Retrieved from http://infed.org/mobi/looking-again-at-non-formal-and-informal-education-towards-a-new-paradigm/ on March 9, 2015

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