Attention, reliability, acceptance, praise, personal relationships: many children in the slums of Manila rarely experience this – and now, since the outbreak of the Corona pandemic, relationships from school have also fallen away. Out of necessity, we started a new reading program. We are amazed at what 15 minutes a day can do in the lives of children and parents.
Almost 13 million people live in the metropolitan region of Manila, capital of the Philippines. About a third of them live in poor neighborhoods in very confined spaces.
"When I tell my son to do his homework, he doesn't do it. When I threaten him, he doesn't. If I yell at him, he doesn't. And if I hit him, he doesn't do it either." A neighbor from our poor neighborhood in Metro Manila told me this. I had asked her how her children were doing with distance teaching. Her answer is an expression of the overdemand that many families in the Philippines experience.
Since March 2020, there have been strict Corona measures, which have led to large income losses for many from the lower class. School lessons only take place online or with worksheets at home. Those who cannot afford smartphones and the internet are left with worksheets, which are worked on independently without input from a teacher. The parents in our poor district cannot help their children in school because they are mostly uneducated and the tasks are not age-appropriate. We were shocked by this deplorable grievance. How can we as Christians help?
THE LEARNING METHOD MAKES THE DIFFERENCE
When the schools were closed for seven months at the beginning of the pandemic, our friend Maria started a small afternoon school for her son and a few neighborhood children. We supported Maria in this. After half a year, despite great efforts, we could see little progress in the six- and seven-years old children.
That's why we started a new reading program whereby we visit the children individually at home for 15 minutes each day. Each child can learn to read at its own pace. The children learn to think for themselves and it is not about simply repeating what the teacher says. The daily home visit and the self-efficacy-based learning method have created enriching relationships. We have seen rapid learning progress, and even challenging children participate surprisingly well.
WITH THE INVOLVEMENT OF LOCAL PEOPLE
Shortly thereafter, we taught this learning method to women from the neighborhood. Since then, they visit up to nine children each day. These women teachers receive a small salary for their work, a welcome addition in economically difficult times.
Our friend Maria knows our neighborhood very well because she sells daily spring rolls and is genuinely interested in children and families. This has allowed us to include many children in our reading program who had already fallen out of the education system. It is wonderful to see how they blossom when they experience attention, care, acceptance and success. The parents are grateful that their children are eager to learn to read and are making progress. This is a great contrast to the many overdemands that families with children with learning difficulties in particular experience in public schools.
BEAUTIFUL CONTRAST IN ADVERSITY
We truly experience beautiful things. For example, three shy women who approaches us because they would like to teach children to read – and who blossom and discover for themselves new self-worth in the process. At the same time, we also see a lot of hardship in our poor neighborhood, not only financially but also socially. Two women teachers have suddenly left their families because they were beaten by their husbands. However, the remaining teachers have taken on these kids so that the reading lessons can continue.
We understand that God invites us to come to Him with both the beautiful and the difficult. To celebrate the good with our friends and neighbors and to bear each other’s challenges and difficulties. And not to forget what a daily 15 minutes of attention can do in the life of a child.
IMPACTS FROM COVID-19
SMG staff and projects continue to be affected by Covid-19. In several countries, for example, schools and homes are still closed. Many institutions and organizations have lost vital funds. Entry into the country of assignment is difficult for some staff. And yet - solidarity is still making a difference eighteen months after the outbreak of the pandemic. With your donation, SMG can help fund staff and projects and make up for deficits caused by Covid-19.
Barbara and Simon have been working as an SMG staff couple in Manila, the capital of the Philippines, since 2018. They live with their children in the slums and work together with neighbors to make the Kingdom of God visible in the slums.