Building Bridges, Breaking Walls

Adong’s parents have never in their entire life imagined that someday, their child could enter that seemingly unwelcoming gate of the Manuel Luis Quezon Elementary School, in Barangay 185, Malaria, Caloocan City in Metro Manila. Not until they realized that the Inclusive Education Program has proven them wrong.

Ronaldo Trinidad Jr. or Adong, a 10-year old speech impaired lad have never experienced going to school since he was 6 years old. Ill-laden since birth because of a congenital disease, Adong just spent most of his time playing alone in their makeshift house, or help his mother do household chores.

With his tender age, Adong has to face the implications of his health and physical condition. He could not speak well, his tummy bulged, and his father, Boy Trinidad, has to frequently attend to him whenever Adong catches fits and seizure. He have been like this for ten painful years, and yet, Adong, has been insistent on going to school, like his “kuya” (older brother) and “ate” (older sister).

Adong’s parents have actually attempted to enrol him at the Manuel Luis Quezon Elementary School in Caloocan City, Metro Manila. The school, having no special education program (SPED) requested Adong’s parents to look for a school that offers special education program. The irony however, is that the schools offering special programs are very far from their house, and they have to spend about P100.00 (about $2.5) daily for his transportation. Both unemployed, the Trinidad couple decided to again, delay Adong’s education.

“Akala ko nga talaga, hindi na siya makakapasok…” (I really thought that he could never go to school…), laments Mana Trinidad, Adong’s mother. However, a sudden shift of fate for Adong happened in 2006, when Mrs. Trinidad met Ms. Lumen Mijares, president of the inclusive Education Community Support Group of Malaria (I.E.-CSG), a local partner of LCDPF in the implementation of the Inclusive Education Program.

Mrs. Mana Trinidad learned from Lumen Mijares that their I.E.-CSG is running a community-based Inclusive Educational Center (IEC) in Malaria, Caloocan City, Metro Manila. She was advised to bring Adong the following day to the centre for pre-assessment and adopted aptitude tests.

Mrs. Trinidad took the chance for her youngest child. The following day, Mrs. Trinidad brings Adong with her to the Livelihood, Education and Rehabilitation Centre (LERC). The long hand railed hallway led them to a room, doors closed and bears a banner saying that it was the Inclusive Educational Centre of Malaria.

As she peaks beyond the glass window, she saw a neat room, were both children with various disabilities and non-disabled children making art works out of clay and pelt papers. She saw that the room was painted with mint green, and is filled with nursery books, some equipment that she had never seen before, kids’ toys. She also saw her neighbour, a mother of a cerebral palsy (CP) pupil, who assists the teacher giving instructions to her (CP) child.

On their way home, after the various tests to Adong, Mrs. Trinidad recalled that Adong, uttering hard to distinguished words but wearing a smile, told her, “Patuk na ako pukas ma…” (I am going to school tomorrow mama…).

Adong studied for a couple of years at the community-based Inclusive Educational Centre (IEC), where he had not only receive therapy sessions and education but has likewise gained friends and peers, non-disabled and children with disabilities, a preparation for his enrolment in the regular school.

Currently, Adong now is enrolled in a regular class at the Manuel Luis Quezon Elementary School, a school with no special education program.

The I.E.-CSG on the other hand will be coordinating with Adong’s teacher, together with other regular teachers, to conduct a teachers training on inclusive education prior to the next school year, to accommodate children like Adong.

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Marlon B. Fulo is the Program Manager for the Inclusive Education Program.