For secondary learners of upland Mahagnao village here, communicating with their teachers means walking 4 km. to get to a neighboring town.
Once or twice a week, Grade 12 student Jaira Crystal Paza, 17, and three of her friends have to walk 4 km. to Lanawan village in nearby Macarthur town through a newly paved undulate road with steep climbs.
Lanawan is the nearest community with a mobile phone network coverage.
The other village with phone signal is Cansiboy village of Burauen town, which is about 5 km. from Mahagnao.
“For two to three hours, we have to stay under a small shade outside a school in Lanawan to be able to send and receive text messages and view instructions from our teachers in our class group chat,” Paza said in an interview Tuesday.
She is the top student of her class and an aspiring flight attendant.
Paza is currently enrolled at the Hibunawan National High School, situated 8 km. away from their village.
While studying their self-learning modules, students residing in Mahagnao list down all their questions so they would not forget them once they reach a place with phone signal.
“We are lucky if we get a reply from our teachers and classmates in a few minutes. Sometimes, we have to wait for two hours for their response,” said Friza Joy Agrava, 15, a Grade 10 student of Burauen National High School (BNHS).
These learners start their hike to Lanawan village after lunch and rush back home before dark. It takes an hour of brisk walking to get there and back.
While in Lanawan, they also grab the opportunity to read online or download learning materials to supplement their home-based learning.
“Our classmates are lucky they live in places with mobile phone network coverage. But for us, obtaining a phone signal is a big sacrifice,” said 15-year-old Pearly Ann Agrava, a Grade 11 student of BNHS, whose dream is to become a worker in the tourism industry.
About 100 high school students enrolled in Burauen and La Paz towns have been participating in remote learning inside their homes in Mahagnao.
Most of their parents are farmers with no capacity to facilitate their children’s distance learning experience.
The government has prohibited face-to-face classes this academic year for fear of the transmission of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) in schools.
Mahagnao, one of the farthest villages in Burauen town, is located 18 km. from the town center and is one of the communities in Leyte province without cell reception.
Each week, teachers deliver printed modules to the village with the help of village officials and parent-leaders.
The village, situated within the Mahagnao Volcano and Natural Park, is 1,200 meters above sea level and surrounded by Leyte’s natural wonders.
Listed as a protected area by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the park has a dormant volcano with a huge crater that turned into a lake.
The village also hosts multiple hot springs, a sulfur mountain, and waterfalls. (PNA)