Assignment with ash

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By Myke U. Obenieta


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

SOMETHING goes wrong, and wisdom often comes way too long. Or, we could count ourselves lucky if the aftermath of mistakes would leave us lightheaded with a wisecrack: “Please excuse the mess. We’re busy learning.”

Lessons in humility are among the hardest, especially when one’s head goes giddy up the clouds. Let the high and mighty teach us, too, about regaining lost ground. A foothold of sobriety can go far, according to the insights gleaned from the recent Gallup report called “State of America’s Schools: The Path To Winning Again in Education.”

Where it falls short and lags behind in meeting the needs of its teachers and students, the world’s most powerful nation could reclaim its ascendancy in educational achievement if it would be steadfast in raising the stakes for “hope, engagement, and well-being” that the Gallup study sees essential in paving “success at school and beyond.”


Here in our meager spot of the map, particularly in Cebu, the footwork of fantasy appears perfectly upbeat about its leg-pulling stunt of suspending disbelief.

Her foot may be in her mouth, but the director of the Department of Education (DepEd) 7 sounds pretty certain that the start of the school year is “generally peaceful and orderly” regardless of “some hitches.” You know, the same old knots in the heart of parents and teachers who worry about the usual “lack of classrooms and armchairs” on top of life-threatening emergencies.

As reported, “a public utility vehicle sideswept a student who was on his way to the Don Vicente Rama Memorial High School” while “a mother and her seven-year-old son fell into a septic tank inside the Pardo Elementary School campus.” Nothing but isolated instances, you’d wish these intimations of danger away along with the happy-go-lucky
whistle of the horoscope reader.

Or, you may suddenly hope for a sixth sense to know if there’s more that meets the eyes of Acting Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella who may have lost sleep over “the state of some of our school buildings.” Finding at least 20 schools lacking of fire exits and with only one staircase, he wants “the local school board to act immediately” so that “safety features should be added right away.”

Far from being reliable, however, has been the official response on matters long overdue for the teachers who may as well have wrinkles in their tongues from yawning out of the old yawp for wage increase. Thus it came to pass that the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) deemed it urgent to stage their protest in time for the opening of classes in some of the city’s public schools.

As long as they seem invisible to the government who only see them during elections, it would not be farfetched to include the species of the “noblest profession” among the endangered.

Survival of the fittest in the face of danger, indeed, is a notion that not only those dealing with untamed pupils can attest as they grin and bear the truth behind such smart-alecky pep talk such as, “Discover wildlife. Be a teacher.” And as long as they and their students know that “hope, engagement, and well-being” are smoky stuff in their classrooms fit to be firetraps, even the optimists among us can only savor the whiff of success if it emanates instead from our truant officials’ ashes.


Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on June 05, 2014.


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