Education in the Midst of Poverty

Hopelessness and Poverty By-Robert

During the Philippine elections, the Philippine Inquirer came out with study on the presidentiables.  Among the different issues discussed, poverty was identified as a significant concern.  According to the Inquirer, “Poverty is the biggest problem in the Philippines. A recent Social Weather Stations survey showed that one in every two Filipino families rated themselves poor in 2015.”

The Filipino teacher faces poverty everyday.  It a socio-economic condition that affects half of the student and the teacher himself.  And among schools with high socio-economic status, the student may be poor in the light of love and compassion.

Can a teacher teach and influence in the face of poverty?  I believe that a teacher must master instruction, classroom management and professional development.  In addition, a teacher would benefit from the Eric Jensen’s Action Steps found in his book “Teaching with Poverty in Mind”.  These are:

  1. Embody respect
  2. Embed social skills
  3. Be inclusive

I met a student a year ago who was suffering from material and emotional poverty.  He had anger management issues.  He had to take care of his mother who was blind.  His father and mother were separated.  The father who was working in another country lost his job early this year. The extended family where the student was living did not think much of him.

I was not his teacher.  I was the Coordinator for Student Services and Formation when I met him.  After assessing his situation, a home visit was scheduled.  Unfortunately, the extended family did not want to entertain the school representatives in their home.  And so, I made it a point to reach out to this particular teenage boy.  He was lost and he was holding on to his peers to give life some semblance of order.  His peers were not model students and had their own share of problems.  Clearly, his support system was lacking.

He is usually involved in a fight.  And, he is very close to punching someone unless someone steps in.  I stepped in to show him how to fight in the battle of life.  I showed him to relax…to breath…and to pause.  I showed him that someone cares for him and his future.

Among the students in the school, he would most likely be the one with the most dialogues with me.  By the end of the year, his academic performance did not merit him to be promoted to the next grade level.

However, God’s grace finally shined on him.  His aunt who raised him from childhood got him from his mother to start in another school.  This new household provides love and compassion that he badly needs.  We spoke before we left.  Now, I could see hope in his eyes.  I believe I had a hand in instilling that hope in him.

I also the same passion and grit in Ms. Alma Fernando – Taldo, a retired teacher of the Loboc National High School.  She is the Founder, Loboc Children’s Choir.  She has led the LCC to numerous local and international singing contests and performances.  Ms. Alma looks for gems among the rough stones and she polishes these to become shining jewels. She is passionate in training talented children in music. Because of her patience and boundless hope, she has embodied respect, encouraged the children’s social and singing skills, while promoting inclusivity.

Poverty is all around us.  It may be present even among us teachers. However, poverty can become an impetus for change. By bringing out the best in us, we can use poverty as a tool to teach.  It drives us to also bring the best among out students despite and because of poverty.

The Many Faces of the Teacher.  Retrieved from

Photo credit. Hopelessness and Poverty.


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