CNN Hero takes 'kariton' classroom to Indonesia

By Czeriza Valencia, The Philippine Star

Posted at Feb 01 2012 07:23 AM | Updated as of Feb 01 2012 06:12 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The 2009 CNN Hero of the Year and educator Efren Peñaflorida is expanding his kariton (pushcart) classroom project to a slum area in Indonesia.

Peñaflorida gained recognition for starting a pushcart classroom program to educate poor children, especially those who live on the streets.

He will expand the program in March to a depressed area in Jakarta, Indonesia.

“There is a need (to expand) the project to Indonesia. We have a tool and the clientele, so why not take the opportunity,” Peñaflorida said during the recent launching of the A+ campaign of technology firm Hewlett-Packard to encourage reading and writing competence in schools.

Peñaflorida is also rolling out four more units of his pushcart classroom project in Metro Manila and other provinces.

He said he was collaborating with the Department of Education (DepEd) and local government officials of Pasig, Caloocan, and Quezon City for the implementation of the project.

Peñaflorida said the pushcart classrooms are not meant to serve as substitutes of traditional classroom-based learning but as a means of encouraging street children to appreciate learning.

“The target is to encourage street children to love learning and eventually put them back to mainstream education,” he said.

Peñaflorida also favors the addition of two more years to the country’s 10-year basic education system, which the DepEd is implementing through the K+12 program.

“Let’s give it a try because sometimes, if there is change, many are uncomfortable about it. We cannot avoid having other perspectives,” he said.

“I’m looking at the positive side. It can help the students improve their skills and become more competitive. Let’s take a risk,” he added.

The K+12 program provides kindergarten education in public schools and adds two more years to high school.

The program is meant to equip high school graduates with the necessary skills that they could use even if they do not pursue a college degree.

It is also expected to make Filipino professionals more competitive in the overseas job market.

The program was criticized for being ambitious because the education system is still grappling with a huge resource gap, particularly in classrooms.

Peñaflorida, who had spent a lot of time teaching street children, said many of them still struggle with basic learning skills.

“Even with daily skills like buttoning up their clothes, they have difficulty with psychomotor skills. They can’t read. They can’t write. These are the children we encounter,” he said.