Parents cry ‘Help’ – Idyllic JASMS soon to be steamrollered into a concrete jungle

by Julie Fuertes as originally posted at the Philippine Online Chronicles.

Grasshoppers. Caterpillars. Frogs. Leaves. Stones.

These were a few of the things my children brought for me from school. Not only did they bring these things home, they also came home with faces streaked with (a bit of) dirt, their socks (somewhat) black on the soles, the knees of the dark or denim pants turned white (or brown)from kneeling on the floor to play board games among others and the bottom back part of the white uniforms turned brown from sitting on steps while socializing with classmates. When they were in grade 1 to 3, they brought mats and pillows to school because they had naps from 12nn – 1pm.

JASMS

They came home with stories of what they did at school. They brought home portfolio of artworks done in school.

They played wonderful sentimental music with their instruments. Once, my eldest child who was in the lyre and flute ensemble serenaded nuns in a hospice. They played old songs which brought tears to the nuns’ eyes. Another time, they were invited to an expensive exclusive school for girls. My daughter said the campus was big but didn’t look friendly.

They had stage plays mounted in school and in other schools as well. I should know, because my son used to play a main character in one which was performed three times.
They competed (and won!) with other schools in various intramurals.

My husband and eldest daughter joined a Father and Child campette twice while I stayed home for a change.

All my children enjoyed camping in school and with other schools in different venues. We celebrated and still continue to celebrate Earth Hour every year as a school year-ender for the Scouts.

Whatever was the child’s family’s religious preference was respected: there were Religion classes for Catholics and special classes for non-Catholics. There were interfaith prayers in programs when the school community is gathered.

These are just a few of my children’s experiences going to school in JASMS or Jose Abad Santos Memorial School, the basic education department of the Philippine Women’s University in Quezon City.

All these things are of secondary importance to me though. Why? Because the JASMS Way taught my children that learning is not defined by grades in report cards and that learning is done not just within the four walls of the classrooms.

I have three children and all of them, except for the few years we homeschooled the two younger ones during their early grades, are or were JASMS-QC students.As of this writing, I only have two children in JASMS-QC because the eldest graduated high school two years ago, with a Loyalty Award pinned on her graduation dress.

The JASMS learning experience

Where we live, we have a lot of school choices to choose from but we chose JASMS –QC as the school for our children and these are some of the reasons why:

1. JASMs helped my children develop their self-confidence through a balance of learning academics and nurturing their gifts in the other intelligences traditional schools do not give importance to.
2. The focus was wholistic development, such that youngesters were able to develop their skills in the fields they excel in, whether in theatre arts, music, sports, writing, speaking, visual arts, etc.
3. It offered a learned process that allowed children to value their self-worth, develop their confidence, hone their thinking processes and explore different ways to learn new within and outside the four walls of the classrooms.
4. I am a special needs teacher and having my children mingle and interact with children who have special needs is very important to me. In JASMS, typically and atypically developing children learn side by side. Thus, they learn to respect and accept others who learn and cope differently from them.
5. The school and the parents work together in the children’s learning process.
One time, at the nearby supermarket, I noticed a young school boy who, at 7pm, was still squeaky clean, polo shirt still white and black pants with no marks on the knee part, looking how he might be like on the way to school in the morning. I discreetly pointed him out to the children and said “Look at the boy, still looking clean even at this time.”

The children were unanimous in saying that he looked like he did not have fun in school. “Di naman siya masaya.”

Masaya = happy.

The children were happy with the playground (muddy when it rains) and whatever was there they can play with. They did not mind the sometimes leaky classroom roofs or the flooding from EDSA during heavy thunderstorms. Children still went back to the school even if it was submerged during Ondoy and the children’s books, mats, and most of the first-floor rooms were flooded and majority of the materials there were destroyed. (Thank you, QC and JASMS Parents Association, for having that creek/concrete barrier fixed.)

The children played happily in the only court in the quadrangle, even if they had to schedule basketball and volleyball practices till late because they had to share.

We witnessed a lot of performance in that same court: Field Demo, Family Day, English Night, Drama Club performances, Grade 5 and 6 Turn-Over Ceremonies, Graduation Rites, First Friday Masses, Monday Flag Ceremonies, Camping Programs and Basketball and Volleyball Tournaments versus other schools.

This was the same court where performances had to be stopped because it was raining and the audience had to wait it out. We didn’t complain about this much. For us parents, what mattered most was that our children loved the school, lock stock and barrel, what it represents and how they learn in it.

This is what the JASMS way is all about, that children have fun learning and that learning is fun.

Threat to the JASMS way

Lately though, the JASMS way is facing awesome challenges.

Without our knowledge, PWU and the giant developer AyalaLand – which has been tapped by STI which has been brought in to buy minority shares in PWU – have been planning for some time to build a concrete multi-storey school to replace the present JASMS and two 33-storey residences and a mall beside it.We.were.not.informed.

The planned conversion of the 33,000 sq. m. area to a mixed-used land where only a few thousand square meters will be dedicated to JASMS is a nightmare we all want to wake up from.

Don’t we have enough malls and high- rise condos?

We ask ourselves if we still want to stay when the conversion plan is approved. And what about the risks children would face going to school while a huge construction is going on in their midst? What about the special-needs children who have no other schools to go to?
With the uncertainty of what’s in store in the years to come, we, at least can say, that our family experienced the JASMS way where children play and learn among heritage trees and the birds and the bees and the flowers.

We have memories of our children cavorting under the trees, swimming in a wading pool, riding a calesa around the school campus, camping near the “mountain,” camping under the stars on tents pitched on grass wet with morning dew.

We wish other families and children would experience these too for generations to come.

As Doreen Gamboa says: The child grows up only once so let his/her childhood be a happy one.” JASMS-QC is a place where happy childhood + learning happens.

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