By Didi Ananda Kala’
Ananda Marga Special Academic Institution (AMSAI) Unlad-Bata – Bicol, is a Pre-school and Elementary service school in Jose Panganiban, Camarines Norte in the Bicol Region of the Philippines. It is serving the local community along with the Indigenous Children (Kabihug, Aetas) in that mountainous area of the Philippines. The Kabihug Tribe is one of the oldest tribal communities in Bicol known as nomadic people, with no land and homes to call their own. They belong to the full-blooded tribe of Negritoes, mostly shorter, with darker skin tone and curlier hair than your average Filipinos.
Our school was started over 10 years ago, in 2003. It opened with just a pre-school, and then eventually we saw the need in the community and added another grade level, at least one grade level every year, until eventually, we were able to produce elementary graduates, starting around 5 years ago.
Unlike regular schools in the country, AMSAI schools incorporate Yoga in their daily routine as part of Morning Circle, to set the pace of the day. AMSAI Bicol has 73 pupils from preschool to primary (grade 6).
Despite the school not having funds, this year, through the help of certain individuals, we managed to conduct a Teachers Training, seeing an opportunity for the growth of our teachers. The training was held in Manila, and tried to incorporate the knowledge of our teachers of NHE Projects all over the world. It included studies of Neohumanism, an introduction to the Ecology of Joy of Dada Caetanyananda, team building, an educational tour and many other things we could squeeze into the 3-day in-house training that would help the teachers get more understanding of how crucial their role is as educators of children, and to hopefully, play their roles better. A three day training is never enough, as there will always be something to learn. With this, we aspire to run trainings on a regular basis.
Also, this school year, we saw the 95% completion of a small library for the children. It started with a donation of both old and new books from local and international organizations. We were very happy to receive the books, and then we started thinking of how best to utilize them. We’ve thought of distributing them to the children, for our children cannot afford to buy their own sets of books. But a better idea sprung up, that will make the books available not only to present pupils, but hopefully to future generations more. And that is how the library was conceived. For our humble school, it is a radical idea to even think of this without financing. But we didn’t give up and slowly worked on planning, while temporarily housing the books in at the Bicol Master Unit. And sure enough, before the school year ended, the children were able to enjoy their very own library. Its small size is countered by the children following a schedule, so as not to get the library too crowded. Thus it can be said that the library is now fully functional, and the only remaining work is ensuring the books are secured from moisture. Preschool and primary pupils are seen here upon the arrival of the books.
There is much work to be done. We aspire at least to have the school vibrancy we have in our Las Piñas Preschool, where the parents are more able to support their children’s school activities, resulting to less dependencies on the school for costumes and other materials. Below are some photos of some activities in AMSAI Zapote, Las Piñas, Manila.