Youth-led ‘The Street Classroom’ continues to empower more children

by Julliana Ulpo

Since 2019, The Street Classroom continues to be a support system to children and  out-of-school individuals in Marinduque.

A youth-led volunteer organization in Marinduque, The Street Classroom, has been advocating for “in-schools, out-of-schools (children, youth, and adults), drop-outs, children-at-risk, children-in-conflict-with-law (CICL), and learners with physical, economical, or geographical limitations.”

Kyle David Atienza, LPT on January 5, 2019 founded the organization together with a small group of licensed teachers, social work students, and one nursing student from the province.

In an interview with Mr. Atienza on October 16, 2022, he stated, “At that time [2019], The Street Classroom pa lang ‘yung active youth organization sa Marinduque.”

(At that time, The Street Classroom was the only active youth organization in Marinduque.)

“We teach children on the streets kasi gusto naming mangyari ay hindi sila ma-enclose sa isang classroom lang. Kasi may mga students na may phobia sa teacher, may phobia sa mismong itsura ng classroom, sa proseso ng pagtuturo […] Kung ayaw nila pumasok sa school, dalhin natin ‘yung school sa kanila,” Atienza explained.

(We teach children in the streets because we do not want them to be enclosed in just a classroom, because there are students that have a phobia with teachers, phobia of classrooms, the process of teaching. If they do not want to go to school, let us bring the learning to them.)

The Street Classroom from a kid’s dream

During his second year in a local college in 2017, then-DOST scholar Kyle Atienza attended a required field study by visiting his designated elementary school in Tanza, Boac. Months of his regular visits involved a kid tapping his shoulder, only to run away shortly after. Until one day he had the chance to ask the kid, to which the kid responded how he was always having dreams of Atienza teaching kids in the street.

The encounter prompted Atienza to post about the story on Facebook. Coming across the Facebook post two years later, The Street Classroom was created.

’Pag kagising ko in the middle of the night, andami (madami) nang nagcomment kung paano sumali, ganiyan, kung paano mag-donate.”

(When I woke up in the middle of the night, there were a lot of comments on how to join, how to donate.)

The Facebook post, however, was also vulnerable to online criticism, as 2019 was the year of elections and their initiative received accusations of having political motives. “Iyon ‘yung una naming kailangang patunayan, na hindi kami [organization] attached to any religion, any politician, (na) wala kaming political ambition,” shared Atienza.

(It was the first thing we had to prove, that we weren’t attached to any religion, any politician, that we did not have any political ambition.)

The Street Classroom had less than 200 volunteers when they launched their first outreach activity on May 25, 2019, at Sitio Ubog-ubog, Barangay Nangka 2, Mogpog.

In the same year, the organization held their Bata Balik-Eskuwela campaign in Yook, Buenavista, the barangay that had the highest number of teenage pregnancies, poverty incidence, and the highest number of not-attending school learners.

Support the support system of community members and learners

As they came to need support, The Street Classroom made attempts to gain assistance from different municipalities in Marinduque.

“Since the beginning of Street Classroom [2019], sobrang hirap kaming makakuha ng support from the local government,” Atienza admitted.

(Since the beginning of Street Classroom, we really struggled to get support from the local government.)

It was only this year, 2022, that they received support from the local government.

Naging kapartner namin [The Street Classroom] sila [local government agencies], kasi nalaman nila na genuine ‘yung purpose ng organization. […] Nagsimula kami sa wala, kailangan lang namin mapatunayan na meron kaming nagagawa para masuportahan kami ng local government. Pero very thankful talaga kami sa Buenavista. Even if wala pa kaming napapatunayan [noon], nagbigay na sila ng suporta.”

(We are now in partnership with our local government agencies, because they came to realize the purpose of the organization is genuine. We started from nothing, we just had to prove that we are able to do something for the local government to support us. But we are just grateful for Buenavista. Even when we had nothing to prove yet, they already gave their support.)

As of October 2022, The Street Classroom has 953 volunteers all over the world.

Setting the organization’s purpose

TSC founder Atienza shared their experiences when they started The Street Classroom. “From the goal na magturo ng mga bata, lumipat kami sa pagiging support system [nila].

(We went from the goal of teaching kids to becoming their support system.)

“We conduct ocular visits, we conduct pre-activity surveys, at ang sinusurvey lagi namin ay ‘yung mga bata […] May lack of support system inside the school and inside their homes. Naging concrete ‘yung purpose namin [The Street Classroom] na we wanted to be that support system sa mga bata.”

(We conduct ocular visits, we conduct pre-activity surveys, and we always conduct the survey with the kids. There’s a lack of support system inside the school and inside their homes, and our purpose of becoming the support system for kids became more concrete.)

The organization and concerned agencies such as Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) and Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) also include parents in their seminars and information drives to help them with civil registry and other parental concerns. “Kapag may outreach activity kami [The Street Classroom], the kids are with us, the parents are with the facilitators […] We train the parents to become better support systems for their kids,” TSC founder explained.

(When we have outreach activities, the kids are with us, the parents are with the facilitators.)

Atienza also expressed how it would be for the best when there comes the time The Street Classroom will no longer be needed. “Kasi ibig sabihin, hindi na tayo kailangan ng mga kids […] Lahat ng bata nakakapasok na […] Ang dream natin mawala tayo [the organization] kasi ibig sabihin, maayos na ‘yung community.

(It would mean the kids won’t be needing us anymore, and that the kids are able to attend school. Our dream is to be irrelevant because that means the community is already doing well.)

Para sa bayan, para sa bata

As of December 2021, The Street Classroom has helped 8,000 beneficiaries through educational projects, outreach activities, seminars, and Youth Development Sessions (YDS). Out of their beneficiaries, 5,331 are from the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps).

The Street Classroom volunteers shared their reasons for joining the organization. “Dati ang aking pagtuturo ay umiikot lang sa loob ng apat na haligi ng mga paaralan [silid-aralan]. Ngayon mapakalsada man ito o Brgy. Hall, hangga’t may bata, willing akong magturo,” volunteer teacher Nira said.

(My teaching then was limited to the four walls of school classrooms. Now, may it be on the street or in barangay halls, as long as there are kids, I am willing to teach them.)

For TSC volunteers Darelle and Ally, they chose to join because of their passion for education, hoping others will also volunteer and teach more children. TSC volunteer Lezette said, “I want to help make a difference because I am aware of the underdevelopment in our society.”

PHOTO: Drawings of The Street Classroom learners about their dreams that serve as their motivation are posted on the Barangay Hall of Dreams at the literacy hub in Mogpog, Marinduque.

Besides learning, the children are also encouraged to express themselves in creative activities. “Dito sa Barangay Hall, pinapadrawing naming ‘yung pangarap nila, tapos ayun [drawing] ‘yung nagiging motivation nila to continue studying,” Atienza said.

(Here in our Barangay Hall, we ask them to draw about their dreams, and those drawings become their motivation to continue studying.)

In August 2022, the organization partnered up with Angat Buhay, a Philippine non-profit organization, making it the first Angat Buhay literacy hub in the MIMAROPA region.

The pilot site is located at the Brgy. Hall of Villa Mendez, Mogpog, Marinduque where local volunteers of The Street Classroom hold their educational sessions with their beneficiaries every weekend.

Tumatakbo ‘yung organization because of kind people, because of private companies na gustong tumulong sa amin,” Atienza concluded.

(The organization is functional because of kind people, because of private companies that are willing to help us.)

The two-month literacy sessions show a promising increase in performance from the twenty-three learners’ initial average in the literacy components alphabet knowledge, decoding, passage reading, and comprehension.

The young learners, together with their parents and the volunteers, participated in The Street Classroom’s first graduation ceremony last Nov 20, 2022 .