Five years after opening its gates to the first batch of students from the surrounding communities in barangay Sta. Salud of the municipality of Calabanga, the co-educational institution still thrives and is thriving well and good. We refer to the La Salud Family Farm School, the only one of its “class” in the Bicol region.
According to the school administrator, Mrs. Crispina Reganit Librero, the number of student-attendees for the current school year is very encouraging. There are 39 first graders, 29 both in second and third grades, 19 in fourth grade, nine in fifth grade and 24 in sixth grade. In high school, two students are in their first year, 13 in second year, 14 in third year and 11 in fourth year. Also, there are 45 pre-schoolers under its tutorial wings. La Salud boasts of 11 elementary grades teachers and 5 high school mentors.
Looking back, Mrs. Librero said that the unconditional support and efforts of the officers and members of Calabanga Towards Rural Development, Inc., paved the way for the opening of the Family Farm School (FFS) branch in the town despite the uphill climb due to constraints in infrastructure, teacher and faculty complement, financing and security issues. In the intervening positive turn of events, different working committees were created and eventually addressed particular concerns. The school made it to the June 2008 school opening.
The Family Farm School system traces its roots from its founder, Mr. Fritz Gemperle. His dedication and interest brought him to several rural areas in Spain to observe how farm schools were operated. In the European setting, the farm schools operate on the basis of a work-study program in which children of small farmers were taught how to make the farms of their respective parents more productive. The knowledge and skill gathered will augment in the improvement of the earning potentials of these rural households.
Gemperle considered it a very good model for rural development so when he came back from his travel, he established the foundation of Pampamilyang Paaralang Agrikultura, Inc. He opened the first family farm school in Dagatan, Lipa city, Batangas on August 8, 1988. From Batangas, the FFS spread to several provinces around the country.
One of the pioneer instructor of the Dagatan FFS is Joseph Jerome N. Sibonga, an agriculture graduate with major in animal science from the University of the Philippines-Los Banos (UPLB). He was sent by the foundation for an intensive training in Spain where he got himself acquainted with the FFS operations.
Today, Mr. Sibonga is the Head of Pedagogy of the FFS systems in the Philippines, in-charge of the training of the faculty in all family farm schools located in different parts of the country, which include those in Balete and Tuy in Batangas, Roxas, Oriental Mindoro, Calabanga, Camarines Sur, Dingle, Iloilo, Bais City, Negros Oriental, Pinamongahan, Cebu, and in Sultan Naga Dimaporo, in Lanao del Norte.
According to the FFS Website:
The FFS system is based on the 4 pillars which distinguishes it from traditional schools. They are the use of the Alternancia as a methodology of teaching leading to Integral Formation. This integral formation focuses on the Professional, Human/Social and Moral areas. Rural Development which is defined as improvement of the rural communities in economic terms, human formation and civic consciousness of the people. Rural formation does not happen without the presence of a strong FFS Association which is composed of people in the community, parents, professionals & institutions.
The responsibility of the families in the formation of their children, that they participate in the formation, management and daily operation of every FFS and extending to all the rural areas; a particular pedagogy for the integral development of the young people; it uses a formation method called “the alternation” between the associate-professional rural world and the center of formation.
This allows for a permanent relationship between practice and theory, work and study, experience and knowledge; the community participates in the formation: this assures the total formation of the students and favors personal and collective promotion of the community, therefore it is a vehicle for community development and cultural authentication and bases for permanent formation.
At the La Salud Family Farm School pupils and students are continuously exposed to tasks and chores which include vegetable gardening and production, raising chickens and pigs, rice farming, among others. This, despite their regular daily classroom learning activities.
In the course of our visit, Mrs. Librero opined that much has to be done, and desired, about the school in terms of its learning materials (books, etc.), facilities and equipments. While it has two mini-campus sites for the elementary and high schools which are all located in barangay Sta. Salud, it needs more financial support, donation or otherwise, to bring the La Salud Family Farm School (officially registered as Nuestra Senora de la Salud Family Rural School, Inc.) into full gear.