CARDONA, RIZAL – Passion has always thrived within Maria Emily S. Matias, a 50-year old single parent of one. Years of volunteering at CheckMySchool (CMS) have cultivated her passion into action – and it has since bettered the lives of the schoolchildren of Rizal.
It all started when she was flown to Cebu.
“I had been chosen to be a leader of Ang Kababaihan Kaagapay sa Pag-unlad (AKKAP), a women-centered organization,” says Emily of her life before CheckMySchool.
AKKAP, according to Emily, had led her to meet a number of women that lacked knowledge regarding their basic rights. Filled with the initiative to share, Emily exemplified great leadership skills by engaging these women and guiding them towards gaining awareness of a number of rights they possessed.
“It’s been my belief that there’s nothing to lose in sharing knowledge and asking questions,” shares Emily.
In a way, she reflects, it is “a process of learning and gaining.”
Seeing her spirit and potential, the federation of organizations, to which AKKAP belonged, had chosen her to attend a CheckMySchool training in Cebu, on October 12-17, 2015. Emily recounts that back then, her end goal for the event was to merely take note of what CMS is about so she could retell it to other organizations back home.
What laid waiting for her, however, was an immersive experience that would alter the course of her life.
Photo: CheckMySchool coordinators and volunteers gather for a training back in 2015.
“After that training in Cebu, I already considered myself a CMS volunteer,” declares Emily.
Since her decision to join CMS, she recounts several unforgettable experiences in the organization: from meeting students who had no idea what fast food was because they were situated so far from civilization, to being awed by innovative schools that used solar panels for electricity or made use of a curriculum catering especially to their indigenous youth. Emily remembers them all.
However, most schools she visits with CMS usually bear less tales of amusement and more stories of struggle.
“There are schools that are unsafe, particularly because of the dangers posed by surrounding members of rebel groups,” Emily says. “Some schools, I remember, still have no electricity or any learning materials from the Department of Education.”
Drawing on her zeal to help through knowledge-sharing, she and CMS coordinated to empower local education stakeholders in Rizal to maximize education funds that were allotted to their respective schools.
“I learned a lot about Department of Education (DepEd) policies and shared them with parents like me who initially did not have any idea about concepts like the MOOE, SEF, and other funds for education that could be availed for the school or for their children,” shares Emily.
“In Cardona, Rizal, there was a fund for a proposed Bottom-Up Budgeting project (Repair of School Building and Riprap) that was not given for two years. Once we checked and followed up for the fund, the fund for a riprap was eventually given in the following three months, and the fund for school building repair, in five months,” she continues.
“We also had a roundtable discussion with school principals on how they received each of their MOOE, how it was computed, and how it was spent. Some principals did not even have any idea on what an MOOE is or how much they were supposed to receive. But on my second year, I noticed growth in the awareness on MOOE. Most schools had since then received their MOOE budget correctly,” she shares happily.
Emily now finds herself having come a long way in terms of volunteering for an initiative like CMS.
Photo: Emily enjoying a walk after a school visit with PTA President Emilita B. Gajero and Co-coordinator Melisa Reyes
“A lot had changed after I became a CMS volunteer. Before, attending that CMS training was just a task given to me by the federation,” she says.
“After learning what CMS is and having that first year experience, it was not only a task anymore. It helped me hear school problems. Sharing knowledge to parents can be an eye opener for them,” she concludes.
In a way, CMS and Emily’s shared passion for imparting knowledge has gone a long way across Rizal. It has built ripraps, repaired school buildings, and produced newly empowered and empowering principals. With more volunteers embodying the importance of knowledge as Emily, infinite potential lies ahead not only for the schoolchildren of Rizal, but for the schoolchildren across the country.
Contributed by: Maria Emily S. Matias
Edited by: Kimberly Shayne A. Arriola