'Not left behind': Learners with special needs, adult students thrive amid blended learning

Arra Perez

Posted at Aug 10 2022 07:07 AM

Batino Elementary School learner with special needs using Braille. Batino Elementary School
Batino Elementary School learner with special needs using Braille. Batino Elementary School

Batino Elementary School — Quezon City's first Special Education (SPED) public school established in 1978 — is the second home of more than 200 learners with special needs, comprising 30 percent of the school's total student population.

This school caters to the differently abled learners — those with autism, intellectual disability, visually and or hearing impaired. Facilities are also ready, including a fitness room, IT room, cooking area, hydroponics, and a swimming pool is under construction. 

A 17-year-old learner with special needs shared with ABS-CBN News how she studies using the braille. 

"2015 po, nag-aral po ako ng Braille ... After po ng ilang months, pagsapit ng June 2016, nagkaroon po ako ng assessment sa Grade 1 tapos diretso na po ako sa Grade 1. Sobrang saya po na magkaroon po ako ng bagong classmates, mga kaibigan kasi po marami rin po natututunan sa kanila. Masaya po sila kasama," she said. 

Michael Maglaque, another SPED learner, was also eager to share how he discovered his dream to become a lawyer, when he experienced studying and mingling with classmates. 

"Para makatulong po sa mga mahihirap na hindi kayang ipagtanggol ang sarili," Maglaque said.

His mother, Ma. Medilyn Maglaque, acknowledged it took time for her to accept her child's condition. But when she did, she couldn't stop telling people how proud she is of her son. 

"Dati po, hindi ko talaga siya matanggap. Hindi ko siya nilalabas ng bahay. .. Hindi ko talaga siya pinapakita sa tao. Pero nu’ng sabi ko, 'Parang ang bigat sa buhay na tinatago ko iyong anak ko.’ Tapos in-open ko na siya... Pinagmamalaki ko na siya sa mga tao, nilalabas ko na siya, dinadala ko na siya kung saan-saan," she said. 

Aside from its facilities that cater specifically to the SPED students, the school is also inclusive. The SPED learners are included in mainstream classes.

SPED teacher Lourdeen Jimenez said teachers conduct assessments to determine which grade level the learners will be assigned to. She and her co-teachers constantly remind the students to treat each of their classmates as their equal.

The parents of both learners with special needs and regular students are also made aware of this setup. 

"Habang unti-unting nagpa-participate si learner with special needs sa regular class, nade-develop ang kanilang bonding, ang kanilang social skills," Jimenez said. "Naa-adapt na nila at nag-gain sila ng respect at trust sa isa't isa."

School principal Jaida Malonzo said education has always been inclusive, even during the pandemic.

"Academic-wise, they are not left behind because even during the pandemic, they attend class every day. If the teacher fails to give them online classes, they will definitely demand for it. So the teacher will adjust the schedule even beyond the official hours," Malonzo said. 

She explained that more than half of their teachers are SPED teachers.

"They are specializing in a particular disability... There are graded and non-graded classes for children with deafness, children with intellectual disability, and children with autism. So we have from kinder level up to the transition level," she said.

'A second chance'

Age is just a number for teachers in Cubao Elementary School, which offers the Alternative Learning System (ALS).

Through ALS, out of school youth, dropouts, and adults who want to finish school, including those who are already in the workforce, are given a chance to return to school. 

Those aged 12 years and above may enter elementary, while those aged 16 years and above may enter junior high school. 

Ria Herjas, education program specialist of ALS QC Districts 3 and 4, said ALS does not impose age limits.

"To the max tayo dito. Kahit na 70 [years old], senior citizens ... Ang ating mga ALS learners ay may ibat ibang pinagdaanan, simula sa financial needs, simula sa mga family problems. Usually iyong mga early marriages or teenage pregnancy," Herjas said.

"Sabi nga namin dito sa ALS, we are giving second chance sa ating mga out of school individuals to finish their basic education."

Gloria Jose was among this year's high school graduates, who finished at age 51. 

She’s a utility worker in the school where her daughter also graduated from.

"Naiinggit din naman ako sa mga teenager. Sabi ko, may edad na ako. Hindi, tuloy ko pa rin," Jose shared.

"Pangarap kong maging teacher. Kaya sa ngayon pinag-iisipan ko pa kung itutuloy ko pa iyong senior high school. Kasi iniisip ko rin iyong anak ko, baka mamaya hindi rin kakayanin sa gastos," she added. 

For ALS teacher Paula Bernal Ordas, her job is a job like no other, but every sacrifice is worth it.

"Mag-a-adjust ako sa schedule ng learners ko kung saan sila pwedeng pumasok. Nasa eskwelahan ako ng Monday to Sunday," Ordas explained.

"Masaya dahil marami akong natutulungan na mga out of school youth na nagtatapos, natutupad ang kanilang mga pangarap sa buhay."

Another ALS teacher Maria Divina Nicor Bambe recounted how they had to make rounds in different barangays amid the pandemic, so that learners will be able to continue their education. 

"Talagang working sila, mga househelper po. Para po matuloy pa rin iyong education nila, kahit sa kabila ng pandemic, lahat po ng means na pwede po namin magawa. Lahat pwedeng tool. Ginagamit po talaga namin. Minaximize po namin iyong gamit ng technology para ma-continue iyong education," Bambe said.

SPED and ALS learners are slowly transitioning to face-to-face classes.

Those interested to enroll in SPED and ALS schools may visit their nearest public school.