Teaching, learning at a ‘volcanic’ classroom



BALETE, Batangas—Want to teach elementary school children studying within a volcano’s premises?

Rica Liwanag is up to the challenge.

The 25-year-old volunteer and barangay health worker has been teaching 27 kindergarten pupils at the Calawit Elementary School (CES) in Taal

Rica Liwanag, 25, volunteered to teach elementary students at a public school in Taal Volcano island (photo by Marlon Luistro / The Filipino Connection)

Rica Liwanag, 25, volunteered to teach elementary students at a public school in Taal Volcano island (photo by Marlon Luistro / The Filipino Connection)

Volcano Island for more two months now.

Rica didn’t imagine though that she would become a teacher someday. After finishing high school in 2005, she worked as a factory employee in Yazaki Torres Manufacturing, Inc. before marrying two years later. She’s currently a housewife tending to two-year-old son Noriel.

It was on September 2014 that she received a call to teach when the school’s former kindergarten teacher left CES and they had nobody to teach the kids. The parents then tried to convince her to teach.

Before the CES was established in 2009 (the school now has 144 students), children living in Calawit used to take a 30-minute boat ride from the volcano island to the Balete mainland  to study in Balete Central School and return home in the afternoon.

This exposes children to further risk, given the previous drowning incidents in the Taal Lake. The most recent incident was last March 30 when one grandfather and two pupils died when their boat capsized in Barangay Alas-as, San Nicolas town.

Thus, parents residing in the volcano island are now left with very limited choices: send children to mainland-based school with the said risks, to the CES, or completely stop them from going to school.



Despite some reservations owing to her lack of confidence and experience with teaching, Rica said yes to the offer. “I don’t want these students to stop schooling,” said the Calawit native who receives a P700 honorarium.

Teaching kids ain’t an easy task though especially in a disaster-prone volcanic island that is full of craters and is capable enough of exploding and releasing toxic gases that can kill thousands of people instantly.

That’s why once Taal volcano’s alert level reaches number 2, teacher Rica says they would have to immediately suspend classes, prepare themselves and eventually evacuate from the island upon advise from authorities.

In case of a typhoon, Liwanag says they would immediately suspend their classes and she would notify the parents through text message. This is so that the children especially those living in the far-flung areas of the island will no longer have to travel all the way to the school.

Except for a selected few households powered by generator sets and solar panels, Barangay Calawit also currently has no electricity supply, which makes it a little more non-conducive to learning. Because of this, the 27 young pupils have been using notebooks as fans from 8 to 10:30 a.m.

Another challenge in teaching within the Taal Volcano-based school is that not all students are fast learners: “Some of them don’t even know how to read ABC and write their own names. You will really need to guide them one-by-one.”

It’s also a big challenge on her part to teach parents to have their children go to school daily and give valid justifications for child’s absence from class.

Rica admits she still has to improve her teaching style that’s why she keeps on reading textbooks. Yet with her refreshing smile, the kindergarten teacher already seems to love her job.

“It’s really enjoying especially when the kids are noisy,” Liwanag said, “and when they start raising their hands wanting to be the first one to read the letters.”



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