Saturday, November 28, 2009

Teacher on Wheels - RD Asia's Featured Hero (November 2009)


The 'Heroes' section in the Reader's Digest (November 2009) Asia Edition features an extraordinary teacher, Arnel Laparan from the Philippines. The story is written by Ross Harper Alonso. Below are excerpts from the article:

Arnel Laparan knows how hard it is to get a good education when you are poor. He grew up in Rosario, a densely populated municipality 30 kilometres from Manila. After his father died in 1970, five-year-old Arnel had to work in a food stall to help support the family. The boy insisted on going to school and his mother finally enrolled him at a nearby public school...


Worn down by all the work, he was ready to give up by the time he reached the fifth grade. Then a remark by his teacher changed his life. "One day she told the class that if we studied, we'll go places," he says. "This motivated me to study harder."

Arnel finished high school at the top of his class, received a scholarship from the Philippine Normal  University in Manila and graduated in 1985 with a degree in education. He took a job teaching maths at a Manila private school for boys and did volunteer teaching at the school's adult classes in the evening...

As time passed, he realised that helping the needy students was his true calling. In 2004 he resigned from his well-paid job and returned to Rosario. "I didn't have a formal academic programme. My aim was very basic - to educate street children for free."


He began holding informal classes under a large tree beside the local church...

Arnel soon became a curiosity in Rosario. People wondered why he walked around carrying a chalkboard, and was so dedicated to teaching the poor. "No-one took Arnel seriously until parents began to notice the number of street children attending his classes was increasing," says Emerita Santos, a municipal employee...

In June this year, Arnel borrowed a bicycle with a large sidecar from a neighbour and dubbed it "School on Wheels". The sidecar holds a tiny wooden desk, textbooks and school supplies, and the chalk board attached to the front bears Arnel's motto: "Education can be found any where. It is one's avenue to wisdom and progress."


The bicycle allows Arnel to visit remote areas such as the Silangan Freedom Parkville, a relocation site for evicted squatters that is notorious for gang wars...

Arnel admits he is not a wealthy man but his work has brought many other rewards. "I want to bring quality education to as many children and adults as possible. Everyone deserves a chance."
(Reader's Digest Asia Edition, November 2009, page 18 - 20)

     Reader's Digest Asia's official website: www.rdasia.com

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