Learner to teacher: An ALS teacher’s journey

For Virgo, the Alternative Learning System (ALS) is not only the home of her profession; it has also been the tool for her to reach her dreams.

Among nine siblings, Virgo Lumanao was the only child to step into high school, a milestone for their family. Although because of their family’s hardships and scarce resources, she had to stop her education to find means of living to support herself and her family.

At an early age of 15, she traveled from her hometown in Quezon Province to Manila to work and find a living. There, she met her husband who brought her to Mindanao to settle down. 

In 2006, she had two young children. “Akala ko hanggang doon na lang ang buhay ko na mag-aalaga ng bata, taga-linis ng bahay, at tig-asikaso ng asawa (I thought my life was all about taking care of my children, to do household chores and to take care of my husband),” Virgo said. But in that same year, she was approached by an ALS teacher and asked her if she wants to finish high school.

Every Tuesday, she would take her 6-month old child to her class, “every time I had to answer our activities, I placed her on the table,” Virgo said as she looked back on her experiences as an ALS learner. 

A year after staying in the program, she took the Accreditation and Equivalency (A&E) Exam of the Department of Education, a qualifying exam for ALS Learners to proceed with their education in college, and passed.

Moving forward with her dream of becoming a teacher, she enrolled in a night school and took up Bachelor of Elementary Education in Manukan District, Zamboanga del Norte.

After four years of balancing her duties as a mother, a wife and as a student, she graduated in 2012 and passed the Licensure Exam for Teachers (LET) the same year.

Applying for a job, especially securing an item in the Department of Education was challenging, Virgo recalled. In 2013, she got her first item as an ALS Mobile Teacher at 33 years old. 

It took Virgo quite some time to adjust to the teaching styles from her orientation with the formal school to ALS, but nevertheless, she knew she was in the right place.

It was the right place for her despite the challenge of overcoming the rocky and unsafe roads going to the community learning centers (CLC) and the lack of exclusive and conducive areas to hold their classes.

Being an ALS mobile teacher, one should be adaptive to the community. Virgo holds her classes in covered basketball courts, and even in a church. One of her challenges as an ALS mobile teacher is the absence of her learners due to numerous reasons: they need to help their parents, need to farm, take care of their siblings, and others. 

But these reasons does not stop Virgo from being an inspiration to her students. “I want that somehow some of my students will also be successful, like that of my story,” Virgo continued, “I think that is the reason why God placed me in ALS, for me to relate my story to them.”

“Don’t they dare underestimate ALS. If it were not for ALS, would I even be here as a teacher?” Virgo said with pride.

Virgo Lumanao is one of the ALS Implementers trained under the Power for Youth partnership of UNICEF and ING. The program will support the Department of Education’s development thrust to enhance the current Alternative Delivery System (ALS) program strategies, teaching approaches and learning materials towards better learning and development of 21st century skills among learners in the ALS.  There will be deliberate links on the flexible learning interventions and that of the platforms for youth engagement to ensure that the goal for youth empowerment is achieved.

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