For communities living close to the Philippine railway tracks in the province of Quezon, trolleys are a common mode of transportation. These are makeshift wooden carts that are either manually pushed along the tracks or powered by motors. Samboy de Leon Niala, 27, who grew up near the railways of Atimonan used to ride these trolleys a lot during his years as a student.
Teacher Sam is now a high school teacher at the Tagkawayan National High School. When his students in Humanities and Social Sciences said they would like to do an outreach educational project to help kids in their community, the trolley came to mind. It can’t be denied kids miss face-to-face classes and many are really struggling with modular learning. The teacher thought, why not turn a trolley into a mobile classroom?
So in November 2021, Teacher Sam and his students started the mobile school project Padyak Pabasa using whatever little resources they had. They rented a trolley and filled it with colorful reading materials found in their respective homes. “Noong una, nagda-doubt kami [ng mga estudyante ko]. Kapag pinaandar kaya namin ang trolley na ito, mapapansin kaya ito ng mga bata?” the teacher tells ANCX. “Pero nakita namin na natuwa ang mga bata sa idea ng padyak school.”
Since many of the students attending the mobile classes are much younger kids, Teacher Sam and his volunteers started with storytelling. The initial target was to help struggling readers. Later on, they realized there are also many kids who are non-numerates (can’t count or have difficulty counting). So they also decided to teach basic math—counting, addition and subtraction—using improvised materials.
“Na-observe namin na nagustuhan ng mga bata ang ganoong approach sa pag-aaral ng Math, so we really try to be creative with our learning tools,” adds Teacher Sam. For Math, they tapped volunteers studying Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics at the Tagkawayan National High School.
Initially, Padyak Pabasa only had six volunteers. Now he has a total of 12 students teaching 60 kids from three communities. The student volunteers, headed by Shaira Marie Berdin, go to the rail tracks thrice a week (Sunday, Monday, and Friday) in the afternoons when the weather is less hot. They basically park the trolley on the side and kids come by to learn. Some would sit either on the railway tracks or just hunker down. A small kubo nearby also serves as a classroom.
Passenger trains don’t take the tracks the kids use. The only train that runs through it is the one tasked to look over the local communities and classes take a break when the kids hear it approach.
The volunteers base what they teach on the kids’ learning modules. “Natutuwa ang mga magulang kasi karamihan sa kanila nagtatrabaho. Hindi nila nagagabayan ang pag-aaral ng mga anak nila. Kaya tinutulungan na din namin ang mga bata sa pagsagot sa mga modules,” says Teacher Sam.
The Quezonian Educational College graduate happily reports that after they were featured by media agencies including South China Morning Post, they have received a few donations from their local government unit and other private sectors. There was even a donation from an OFW in Hong Kong. These allowed them to build their own trolley, buy some monobloc chairs, and also share educational materials with the kids. According to Teacher Sam, Padyak Pabasa have also caught the attention of a Vietnamese TV station, BBC News, CNA, Reuters and German News.
“Nagpapa-feeding program na din kami. Every time na nagtuturo kami, nagpapakain din kami. Pag may laman ang tiyan, mas natututo ang mga bata,” Teacher Sam offers.
It’s not only the learners who are benefiting in the process as some volunteers find they are also investing in their future—some of them wish to embark on teaching as a profession. Teacher Sam says the project has been a great eye-opener for the volunteers. It has developed their socio-civic consciousness and ignited their passion to help others, which is essentially what Humanities and Social Sciences are all about.
To those who wish to donate to the Padyak Pabasa Project, you may message them thru their Facebook account.
Photos courtesy of Samboy Niala