Conversations with the community
TALKING EDUCATION WITH ALS VOLUNTEER GENELYN BENJAMIN
The walls of Genelyn Benjamin’s child care centre are covered with paper plates reimagined into lions or panda faces, straws shaped into flowers and colorful ABCs. In every direction, there is inspiration for her young students’ active, creative and learning minds.
But this room isn’t only for some of the barangay’s (village’s) youngest students. It is also the alternative learning space for some of the more unconventional learners.
Every Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Genelyn opens up barangay Blumentritt’s child care centre to Alternative Learning System (ALS) students from the area. ALS is an alternative approach to schooling, providing education that is flexible and accessible for learners that are not able to attend formal school due to a range of circumstances.
In Genelyn’s classroom, poverty is the main reason her students leave school. Some learners are only 15 years old but are already working full time in the sugarcare fields that surround Negros Occidental. Despite their situation, Genelyn knows these children still want to learn. She can see this each time they travel in the rain or come to class tired after work; they are committed to their own education.
Genelyn could talk about education all morning with us. She’s made education her life’s work but it wasn’t always the plan. Her parents wanted her to study engineering which she did for a year before following her heart and transferring to her education degree. It took her three more years to tell her parents she changed, but she knew it was the right thing to do, “I love my profession being an educator,” she shares.
From her education degree, Genelyn planned to teach high school. And she did for many years. But it was between jobs that she took on work in the child care centre and accepted the invitation from the barangay kagawad to start as an instructional manager (IM) for the ALS program.
“Back then , there were not many IMs and there were not many ALS students.” Genelyn recalls.
Quidan Kaisahan supported the Department of Education’s ALS program in Brgy Blumentritt, trained Genelyn and provided her with resources as one of the pioneer volunteers in the area. She remembers her first five students which quickly turned to eight. And how the number continued to grow. Genelyn was a driving force in spreading the message about ALS and bringing many out of school youth back to education in Blumentritt.
Once she had opened her classroom to these students, she couldn’t turn her back on them. Genelyn grew up in Blumentritt, her own elementary school is just around the corner from where she works now. She knew she had to give back to her community.
“For the community, education is important. It is important because the communities that are educated can understand their situation better. They can adapt better to change,” Genelyn says.
Genelyn has had many of her ALS students continue to the Accreditation and Evaluation (A&E) exam and pass. The A&E provides ALS students with a grade 10 equivalent certificate and opens opportunities for future study in grade 11, 12, college and improved job options.
Last year, the community came together to celebrate the A&E passers. Genelyn has had many passers in recent years. It’s the moment of greatest pride for Genelyn and the passers families she tells us, “When they announce the passers it makes the parents very proud. It makes me proud.”
Genelyn tells other child laborers about her passers and is the hope many of the students in her class today. Genelyn and her ALS students see education as a crucial component to helping better their lives and the lives of their families.
“As long as I live, I will encourage people. I will encourage the people who want to learn.”
Quidan Kaisahan supports the Department of Education’s ALS in barangays around Negros. We provide training and assistance to dedicated community volunteers like Genelyn.