Public school teachers in the Philippines experience all sorts of hardships including low pay and lack of facilities, which is why this South Cotabato teacher’s ingenuity has inspired so many people.
Viral on social media right now is Reynel Calmerin, a Grade 6 English teacher from the Polomolok Central Elementary School 3 who turned an old restroom into a colorful reading corner for his students using mostly just scrap wood.
He shared his project on Facebook on June 2, Sunday and it now has more than 6,000 reactions, 4,000 shares, and close to 500 comments.
Calmerin recalled how he turned trash into treasure in a Facebook message to Coconuts Manila. The 32-year-old said that the former restroom, which is inside a classroom where he teaches, was already ripped off its facilities when he reported for work this school year. He wanted to reuse the space and said that he used scrap wood so that he could get rid of the bathroom tiles and cover them without having to paint the walls, which would cost more.
“If I remove the tiles, I need to polish it with cement and paint it. It is time-consuming and I don’t have [the] budget for that,” Calmerin said.
It was a good thing that behind the classroom is a stock room for broken chairs, which he ended up using to cover the restroom’s walls. They ended up becoming decorative too because, in their school, chairs are color-coded according to the grade level.
The makeover took about three days to finish and involved Calmerin deconstructing the chairs, cutting the wood, and attaching them to the frame he prepared for the wall. The teacher said he coated the wood with natural varnish but did not repaint them to give the room a rustic look.
“It is tough, believe me,” he said laughing. “Because I am not a carpenter.”
Calmerin did most of the work himself and only asked a friend for help on one of the days when he had to attend a seminar. He started the project on May 31, Friday and finished fixing the wall on June 2, Sunday, a day before classes started. The room was still empty then and so that Saturday, he added decor, a clock, a lamp, shelves, and books to complete the reading nook.
The teacher said he spent about PHP100 (US$1.92) on nails and varnish to create the wall. The decorations came from his own home or were donated by other teachers. He said some parents also provided financial assistance for the lights and electricity.
“Our school is promoting that bayanihan spirit,” Calmerin said, referring to the Filipino term for communal unity.
He said the students and faculty loved what he did and that he still can’t believe that his post has gone viral.
“I can’t believe it, but it gives me [the] opportunity to inspire others,” he said. “They keep on sending messages and asking [for] suggestion on how to improve [their] classroom.”
Calmerin is not stopping with just one reading corner. He said he has spoken with Mayor Honey Lumayag-Matti and proposed a plan to turn the school’s stock room into a reading facility for non-reading and slow-reading students.
He also wants his students to learn a few things from all of this. “Be creative and be part of the solution. Do not complain. Instead, make a difference.”
This article, Teacher turns old restroom into colorful reading corner with scrap wood, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia's leading alternative media company. Want more Coconuts? Sign up for our newsletters!