New school building to help support education of Sama-Bajaus in Cabanatuan

SM Foundation and SM Prime Holdings, Inc. recently donated a new 2-storey, 4-classroom school building to serve the students of Bakod Bayan Elementary School in Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija for the incoming school year—including its 59 Sama-Bajau enrollees.

Sama-Bajau, more commonly known as Badjaos, are an indigenous group hailing from Zamboanga City and Jolo, Sulu. Due to the recent issues of peace and order in the area, they were relocated to Central Luzon through the initiatives of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

According to Bakod Bayan Elementary School Principal Trinidad Beltran, around 100 Sama-Bajau families were moved to Cabanatuan City with some of their children now enrolled in the school.
“It was really hard at first. Teachers and classmates have to adjust to them so they will not feel discriminated. Most of them are overaged for the grade level they are in,” Beltran shared. Bakod Bayan Elementary School teachers and students took the initiative to help the Sama-Bajau children in familiarizing themselves to their new environment.

Beltran added, “Through the help of their teachers, little by little they learned how to cope with these changes in their lives. They are now active and participative in all activities in and out of the classrooms. In fact some of them are included in the top ten in their classes specifically in Grades 3 and 4. Others even excel in sports.”

The new addition of the school building will not only help in creating equal opportunities for the Sama-Bajaus and the children of Bakod Bayan, but also help in improving the quality of education in Bakod Bayan Elementary School by creating a better environment that is conducive for learning.

“One of the many challenges we have is the lack of proper classrooms to provide the quality education that our pupils deserve,” Beltran said.

Before the donation, Bakod Bayan Elementary School has 10 school buildings with 17 serviceable, yet dilapidated classrooms in use. The new school building is also expected to reduce the student-to-classroom ration from 71 per classroom to 64.

Jaymart Alimarcan, an incoming grade 6 student of Bakod Bayan Elementary, is part of the first batch of students who will use the new school building this incoming school year.

“We’re very happy because we will be the first ones to use the new rooms of our new school building,” he said excitedly. “We’re very lucky to have a new building. All of the furniture is new—chairs, blackboards, ceiling fans and toilets. We will be inspired to study!”

As with all of SM Foundation’s school buildings, the structure came furnished with student armchairs, wall fans, blackboards, teachers’ desk sets and toilets. Additionally, SM Foundation also schedules repairs every five years to preserve and maintain its donated buildings.

SM Foundation continues to help provide access to quality primary public education through its School Building Program. To date, SM Foundation has already built 72 school buildings with 216 classrooms in various locations nationwide since its program started in 2001.