Island’s Schoolkids Lose Fondness For Reading

MANILA, Philippines - "We have 'extreme' students here," said Lyceum of Camiguin officer-in-charge Marcelino Antonio, describing how the school's students fare academically.

Lyceum is a private high school in Camiguin Norte, one of the islands that make up the municipality of Calayan in Cagayan.

"The problem is that the youth of Camiguin Norte today are not fond of reading. Sometimes, we have so many materials in the library, and yet, they don't flip the pages of the books; worse, they don't even use them at all. Watching television programs is all they want to do," Antonio said.

"But those who want to excel are okay, too," he was quick to add.

In a place where farm animals outnumber high-tech equipment and gadgets, and electricity is available only from 6 in the evening to midnight, schoolchildren have few diversions besides watching TV and listening to the radio.

The island does not have Internet cafés. The islanders can only go online through their cell phones, which can be costly, or in school, which has free broadband connection.

Boys, like senior Lyceum student Silvestre Antonio Jr., play basketball or musical instruments on days when there's no school.

"I play ball with my friends on weekends, when we have no classes. Or we jam and sing our hearts out," said the 15-year-old, who hails from Sitio Morol in Barangay Minabel.

Antonio, third in a brood of eight and one of the Lyceum's convent boys, attends eight subjects with 44 other students in an eight-hour shift every day.

"Here, students learn only inside the classroom; nothing really much from the outside. When they, especially those who walk to and from school, get home, they don't have any thing else to do anymore but eat then sleep. When there's no electricity, they cannot study any more," said Lyceum school director Fr. Tereso Campillo, O.P.

For Lyceum students who live on the other side of the island, a boat ride is the most convenient way to get to school.

"If the weather is fine, parents accompany their kids on the boat ride to school. They go around the island," said the older Antonio. "Otherwise, they have to walk."

Walking from Morol takes one to two hours.

"There's a shortcut, but it's difficult. We tried it one time, when another priest, Fr. Vic Calvo, was here. We had to hold on to the roots of the trees, which were slippery. He had fever the following day because of it," Campillo said. (To be Continued...)

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