I HAVE FRIENDS: LCDPFI’s Strategy in Encouraging “Inclusive Camaraderie”

by: Marlon B. Fulo

One of the significant contributions of the Inclusive Education (I.E.) Program in the Philippines is the establishment of child-child-clubs (CTC) in some of the IE pilot sites.

The main goal of CTC is to create an environment wherein enrolled children with disabilities would have a roster of non-disabled peers inside the school. Eventually, these same peers are likewise expected to be tutors of their CWD classmates during class activities.

In a small town of Barangay (village) 185, in Metro Manila (National Capital Region) a disabled child named Jimmuel Arandela, used to be a shy and timid grade I pupil of Manuel Luis Quezon Elementary School. His mother even recalled how he used to cry in class whenever Jimmeul discovers that his mother is not at his side.

“Natatakot kasi siya na matukso o kaya awayin ng mga kaklase niya” (He is afraid that his classmates might make fun of him or bully him)”

Jimmuel is a typical 7 year old boy, a native of San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan, Region 3 where his parents raised him.  When he was 5, his family moved to Barangay 185 from San Jose, for reasons of land title security. Jimmuel was born with only one leg. Being the youngest of 3 children, he used to live a normal life with the support of his family. Mr. and Mrs. Arandela gave him the love and care that they used to give to his older brothers. However, despite this, Jimmuel grew shy and timid. Whenever the family have visitors, he would automatically run (or hop) away from group of people not known to him.

The feeling of anxiety and shyness would even escalate whenever their neighbor children would make fun of him calling him “pilay or pilantod” (a mocking term for limping persons) or even mimicking his movements in a comic manner. Jimmuel, for most of the times, is left alone in their house because his parents have to work both, outside their town and both of his brothers go to school. Even at a “schoolable” age, his parents decided not to send him to school because of his disability.

However, things changed as Jimmeul enrolled at Manuel Luis Quezon Elementary School last June 2010. It is here, according to him, where he had finally felt a sense of belonging and accommodation.

Manuel Luis Quezon Elementary School (MLQS) is one of the pilot sites located in National Capital Region. The school has no special education program since its foundation. Not until in 2009 that the Inclusive Education Program finally encouraged the administration of MLQES to open its doors for enrolling children with disabilities in nearby towns. Through the process, Jimmuel became active in his school activities.

The timid and shy boy now is a group leader in one of their subjects. Jimmuel even had his own “barkada” (peers) that help him in his assignments, join him during recess, and accompanies him oftentimes from school to their house.

It is worthy to note that a regular school should first embrace the principles of education and child-focused support to enable disabled children like Jimmuel to play like other children do, to laugh and smile like others, and most importantly, to have his own peers that will help him in the process of learning.