Who doesn’t dream about development? Actually, people always believe that there’s room for improvement. We want to be better, if not the best, in everything we do. But in a connected world that we are living now, does anyone care about sustainability?
Ever heard about sustainable development? This was defined in Our Common Future, also known as the Brundtland Report: “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” In common language, it’s just being mindful of the available resources that you are using. Don’t be so greedy so that the future generation will still have enough for themselves.
The COVID-19 Pandemic Health Crisis, reminds me of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Number 4 in the SDGs, also known as #2030agenda is Quality Education. I am a product of the Philippines public education system and I am proud of it. The schools are under our Department of Education (DepEd). It’s the counterpart of the Ministry of Education in other countries. Our school year normally starts during June to March. April and May fall into our summer season and usually are for vacations.
But before June comes, there’s a week-long program called Brigada Eskwela (BE). BE, as we called it with my fellow volunteers – we call ourselves Brigaders (BTW), started last 2003. It was an umbrella project under DepEd’s Adopt A School Campaign. I personally volunteered several times for this. We were not paid, but we devoted our full time and energy in cleaning those hot messy rooms, repairing those broken armchairs and teachers’ tables, repainting those decade-old chalkboards etc.
Yes, we clean and “improve” everything that you can see in those old concrete buildings and almost every corner of the schools that we went through. We are just there for a day or two, but imagine the sacrifices of teachers holding the classes there – one class has at least 40 to 50 students, if a room is large enough, 65 students at most, in those not well-ventilated rooms with just two to four electronic fans, for 10 straight months is somewhat unbelievable. Their job is really very challenging, yet a noble one and I salute them. Most of the materials we use are provided also by teachers, parents and volunteers/donors that are kind-hearted enough and wanted to give back to their community.
Being a brigadier reminds me of my Alma Mater, Panghulo National High School (PNHS). A simple community high school that started as an annex of Malabon National High School. With its more than 50 years of existence, it has produced a lot of graduates that are now professional, if not experts, in their chosen fields. It caters to at least five surrounding communities (called barangay) namely Panghulo, Santulan, Maysilo, Panghulo Obando (Bulacan) and Arkong Bato (Valenzuela City). Our school was put into the limelight when we joined “Pinoy Henyo” in the longest running noontime show in the Philippines, Eat Bulaga. We emerged as the Champion in that game show last 2012.
I was a student there from 2002 to 2006. During those times, I have been in and out of my classroom during class hours. Simply because I need to review, participate and join various academic contests, quiz bees etc. Most of the time, I emerged as the champion or the winner. But there are also several instances, in which I was challenged to do better next time around. Those combinations of “contestperiences”, as I called it, already gave me a hint that you can’t have it all in life. Yet you must concentrate, on getting better than your yesterday’s version. I guess that started my love for continuous learning and ignited me to develop as a lifelong learner, in general.
After spending four years in that school, I gathered numerous medals, awards and certifications. I am the first honours since first year to third year and graduated as the class valedictorian. Those are nothing compared to the various experiences and training that I got there. It honed my capabilities as a progressive student leader, a critical-thinking follower and inculcated in me the sense of belonging to a community.
Recalling my secondary education, I scheduled an (online) interview with one of my then teachers, now the principal, Mrs. Marites Jarina and the school partnership focal person/BE coordinator Sir Sherwin Mamaril. According to them, our school is now facing a challenge. It aims to be the most sustained school in BE and was being awarded as Hall of Famer last 2019. Aside from that, they are bridging everything to these three main adjacent projects namely:
- Disaster Risk Reduction & Management (DRRM). This requires acquiring solar panels & bike generators as an alternative source of energy.
- Wash in School (WINS). The water sanitation & hygiene program that provides more emphasis on one’s health & wellness.
- Brigada Pagbasa. A program to equip their learners with the necessary materials vital for literacy programs.
Just like our developing world, it must sustain its progress. So practically the questions are HOW and WHAT? How can we sustain development? What would be our simple yet effective ways in keeping that progress? I got a few points in my thoughts.
Create critical awareness. People would know what’s happening and how they can help in any way.
Having a sense of belonging to a community. We care more than ever in things, if we know that it will affect us, in the long run.
Pay it Forward/Giving Back Attitude. They help you to be who you are today. It would be great to look back and help in any way you can possibly do.
Empathy. You truly understand how to be in that situation/settings. You now have a chance to help those who are experiencing it right now.
A call to action. Just like the SDGs that I had mentioned above, everyone in the world is called to act. We are all in this and we are affected. This is on behalf of the whole humankind and future generations. Do and practice simple life changes everyday. Yes, be mindful of simple things and start a good habit. A good habit can develop into a great routine. That can create a snowball effect, in the long run.
I view my school as a representation of our evolving world. We do have existing projects. But the world is asking us, the primary stakeholders, to take some more collective actions. Proactive and timely actions, that if done globally will benefit us all, in one way or another. Yes, I am now referring back to the SDGs here.
Why? Simply because we are all connected and exist here for the best reason.