When the pandemic forced the closure of schools in the Philippines, a group of teachers who lived close to the indigenous Aeta were so concerned about the impact on the children of that isolated community that they devised a way to help them: teach them in rickshaw, the means of transport, usually by human traction, typical of several Asian countries.
Many students in the country have been able to follow their classes through the Internet, but most of the Aeta, who live in a mountainous area north of Manila, do not have access, not even television, to supplement face-to-face education.
“We had to think of an alternative way to bring the lessons closer to the children,” says Christopher Semsem, one of the teachers who has promoted the project, at the Villa María integrated school. Using old shelves and wooden planks, they improvised a teaching facility complete with a large screen mounted atop a rickshaw and pulled by a motorcycle, in order to bring teaching closer to the towns of the rural province of Pampanga.
The teachers previously recorded videos with their mobile phones, videos that are later played on the monitor to help in their classes, and thus solve the need for face-to-face contact with the children. So far, Aeta students have responded enthusiastically to the lessons, and their parents are relieved that classes are back, teachers say.
There is a debate among anthropologists about the origin of the Aeta, many of whose members have settled down after deforestation wiped out their traditional nomadic way of life. The school director, Marizen Tolentino, assures that the initiative of the rickshaw it has been vital in helping to assimilate the contents of the program.
Since the project began earlier this month, some 500 primary to secondary schoolchildren from five villages have been visited by the rickshaw, two or three times a week. The teachers’ project is voluntary, although the local government provided them with the vehicle and provided them with a driver.