54-year-old mom is Region XII’s oldest high school student

June 3, 2009 1:31 pm 

By Annaliz Cabrido

GENERAL SANTOS CITY, June 3 -– Amid the pineapple and asparagus farms in Tupi town, South Cotabato, a shy 54-year-old mother, Rosa Saling-Gagnao, walked on the way to the principal’s office of a secondary school in the area.

Certainly, "Nanay Rosa," as she is fondly called, was not summoned for some unruly things done in school by her youngest son, but she had something more important to tell to the principal.

As the school principal, Simplicio Balleza Jr., busied himself attending to the ongoing enrollment at the Tupi National High School, the mother of six grown-up children looked very much worried as it was the only time she got inside a principal's office again after 36 years.

After briefly talking with the principal, Nanay Rosa would be treading the fields each day to school, not to fetch her kids, but as a fourth-year student again.

Nanay Rosa arrived at a decision to drop her work as an active barangay health worker of Purok 14-A, Barangay Poblacion in Tupi town, to attend to her schooling, missed in her younger years due to poverty.

For Nanay Rosa, gone are the times that she lived in perpetual bondage of poverty and ignorance which are the reasons for the gap between the poor and the rich.

Under such conditions, the so-called uneducated ones are prone to human abuses and their families continue to be mired in poverty.

Nanay Rosa said she asked her farmer husband if she could go back to school and attend to her unfinished secondary school studies after she quit school in 1973.

Her husband supported her in finishing her secondary course at the same school where her grown-up children earned their secondary diploma.

Balleza said Nanay Rosa is a living example of an individual who values the importance of education despite her age.

He commended Nanay Rosa's act, saying, “Age is a matter of number but education is a matter of continued learning.”

Department of Education (DepEd) Region XII Director Luz Almeda said age, like poverty, is not a hindrance to finish school.

Perseverance and diligence are the keys to excel in a chosen field, Almeda added.

DepEd records show that Nanay Rosa is the oldest among the 800,000 public school students, both in elementary and high school, in Region XII.

Meanwhile, to influence and motivate other students, the school principal has put Nanay Rosa in the last section of the fourth-year class.

However, Balleza gave assurance that Nanay Rosa will be given fair and just learning, the same as with the regular students.

Nanay Rosa and her husband are tending their small coconut and corn farm.

Aside from being a village health worker, Nanay Rosa and her husband are enjoying their prime years as proud parents of a daughter who has landed a job in Australia. Two other children work as a pharmacy aide and a nursing aide.

During the first day of class, Nanay Rosa was accompanied by her youngest son, who is a grade three pupil in a nearby public school. They had lunch together and went home together after school.

"I just wanted to finish high school. That's all I am wishing for," Nanay Rosa said. "I have all the experiences to tell but I want to know more to understand more." (PNA Feature) scs/RGR/Annaliz Cabrido

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