Project Bata Mag-aral Ka

We don't just teach, we invest in dreams.

Project Bata, Mag-aral Ka: How It All Started

Where do you spend your Saturday mornings? At UP Sigma Delta Phi (UP SDP), we spend them in rooms full of excited kids and volunteer teachers for Project Bata, Mag-aral Ka (PBMK).

UP SDP’s flagship advocacy started out in 2009 when we saw a need for more of the youth to value having an education. We decided to solve this problem by creating PBMK, a program that enables children 5-7 years old to dare to dream big and fulfill their dreams by pursuing an education.

We developed a curriculum for PBMK that would motivate the youth by making it enjoyable and interactive. We made use of original songs and streamlined lessons with values centered on caring for the self, the family, and the community. The children were taught basic reading, writing and arithmetic in creative ways. For example, children were taught counting by teaching them how to measure and purchase food ingredients from the market.

The first year of PBMK was held at Metro Vargas. In subsequent years, we expanded our reach to cover even more communities. In four years’ time, over 200 children from 9 different communities successfully completed PBMK.

PBMK gained much attention from other organizations and we were fortunate to work with the National Geographic Channel Philippines, Gawad Kalinga, UP Cradle, and Museo Pambata. The program was also adopted by Civic Welfare Training Service (CWTS) classes in the College of Human Kinetics in the University of the Philippines - Diliman to be part of their curriculum.

What started as a vision is now a university-recognized labor of love that is 100+ volunteer-teachers and 200+ graduates strong. Spend five of your Saturday mornings with us and experience first-hand what it’s like to partake in fulfilling someone else’s dream.

Project Bata, Mag-aral Ka:
Building Dreams, One Kid At A Time

Project Bata, Mag-aral Ka (PBMK) was created with the goal not only to teach, but also to inspire kids to dream. It started with one community, and expanded to 5 with the support of organizations like Gawad Kalinga and the National Geographic Channel Philippines. In four years, we have watched kids grow – from little tantrum-throwing tykes into little dreamers.

Take for example Angelo, a 7-year old kid who was only sitting-in yet was one of the most rowdy and difficult students to handle during class. He came from a family of five children and his parents were barely present. This left him and siblings to be taken care of by their eldest brother. To be able to attend PBMK, Angelo had to be fetched and brought to class, simply because no one would be there to take care of him.

It was heartwarming to see him transform from a troublemaker to our star student. At times when his brother would come to fetch him, he would say, “Sandali lang, Kuya, nag-aaral pa ako!” (“Wait a minute, I'm still studying!”) But the best part was the time when the kids had to draw what they dreamt of being someday. While his classmates drew doctors, policemen, soldiers, and teachers, Angelo drew a picture of a happy kid. His dream, he said, was to go to a real school someday to learn.

To see kids like Angelo, who once thought education was pointless, realize that they can dream, is what PBMK is all about. Join us on our 5th year and experience what it’s like to help them build their dreams.

YOLO, For Real

“Would you like to spend this Saturday teaching kids?” – “Uh, yeah maybe.”

That’s usually the polite response I get from people I ask. They are probably thinking it’s the polite way to decline. I get it. It’s not exciting and compelling enough for most people. I know, because I was once like that too.
Don’t get me wrong, I love kids, but teaching kids was not particularly part of my I’M-EXCITED-TO-DO-THIS list, as is probably for most people. I would much rather be at the beach learning to surf, or be at the mall shopping with to-die-for shoes, or somewhere with my friends chilling out and doing some YOLO thing (I just recently learned what that means). That’s what adrenaline junkies do – dare to do something extraordinary. Right?

All that changed during one Saturday.

Metro Vargas is a community of 480 families of informal settlers. It’s a little community that rests right beside a school, which more than half of them do not go to because they can’t afford to. Their houses are cramped, and kids run around amidst adults shouting to their neighbors for the latest gossip or for some favor. But to these people, this is home.

I started teaching in Metro Vargas last 2009, during the first Project Bata, Mag-aral Ka. It was the most taxing thing! We had to teach 30 energetic kids, who will challenge your authority whenever they think they can. One kid would just go to class to eat the food for recess and would try to run back home every chance he gets. His name is Joshua, who was 3 years old at the time. Now, he’s in Project Bata, Mag-aral Ka IV and getting ready for Grade 1.

That was the whole point of the project – to teach kids basic reading, writing and counting, while showing them that school and learning can be fun. Every Saturday for four weekends, volunteers go to the area to teach the children and each day has a theme that is values-centric.
Project Bata, Mag-aral Ka is now on its fourth year, with five communities under it. We have experienced tremendous support from student organizations, UP students, and even from both the private and public sector. The Department of Education attended our forum and found the project very promising. National Geographic believed in the project enough to give us the honor to be their first student organization partner. We have around 50 volunteers per day and our goal is to make this as viral as possible, sharing with student organizations and people, who share the advocacy. Right now, two student organizations are considering adopting the program.

Out of the 30 children, we hope that more than half of them will get to start or continue going to school. We will visit them again after a month to check on them and to see how the program can be improved.

This is truly a work of love and passion by people who find being with children a compelling way to spend some Saturdays of the year. Yes, they can drive you crazy sometimes, especially after snack time, when they have had their share of sugar (we learned this the hard way). And yes, sometimes you just want to stare them down for making faces at you, while you’re trying to teach them the moral of the story of the kid who didn’t take a bath for a week. And yes, sometimes you just want to run out of the classroom when one of them starts crying for their mommy or their older brother and would refuse to listen to your rational and reasonable explanations as to why staying in the classroom is the best decision.

But handling these kids teach me so much more. They taught me patience. To listen to them, and hear out their stories about their baby sister named “Ning Ning”, when you were just about to tell them the exciting story of the band that saved the town. They taught me to not lose my imagination when one kid drew a mother hen with what seemingly looked like an egg, when everyone else was expecting stick people. But most of all, they taught me how to YOLO for real.

You Only Live Once. Precisely. And so will these kids. Spending those Saturdays with them is time spent well, and you will never know how far those four Saturdays will take them. That’s worth it for meSo I’d like to thank all those who joined us these past few Saturdays. You have all been great! To the CWTS classes who are in it for the grade (joke!). Seriously, you guys did a great job. To our partner organizations, UP Cradle, UP Euro, and Tangway, thank you so much for the support. We hope to see you again next year. To National Geographic, thank you for believing in the project. To all the people who showed their support by helping out with the expenses of the kids, thank you. Because of you, these kids will get to go on an educational field trip on their graduation, which I am excited about!

Before I start to sound like I won an Oscar, I would like to cut this short by saying this – next time someone asks you if you would like to teach kids during one of your Saturdays, just say yes. That’s the real adrenaline junkie. Then go do it.