CEBU CITY, Philippines — Teaching inside the detention facility is very challenging. But with the urge of inmates to have a better life once they are free, it becomes easier.
This is was what JO2 Neil Aquino of the Cebu City Jail Male Dormitory learned from becoming an Alternative Learning System teacher inside the city jail for nearly six years.
Aquino, 34, is a native of Zamboanga del Norte but currently resides in Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu.
Aquino finished a degree in Bachelor of Elementary Education in his hometown in 2008.
Aquino had no plans of teaching when he was young. However, since their school only offers two courses–Commerce and Education–and the latter was the only degree that his single mom could afford, he gave it a try.
And the rest was history.
Aquino has been with the Cebu City Jail since 2017 after serving as a jail officer in Lapu-Lapu City Jail in 2008. Since then, he was already assigned as the ALS teacher there. So how did an education student end up as a jail officer?
For Aquino, it was an opportunity grabbed.
After graduating college, someone offered him help to apply at the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology. He eventually got a spot.
Once inside, he made sure he’d be able to help inmates no matter what.
“Ang mentality sa taga gawas kay once gikan gani dinhi, PDL, moingon sila nga di na mausab. But honestly, siguro naay uban nga choice nga magbinugoy sila, pero naa man say uban nga ganahan mo pursue [mag-usab],” Aquino said.
In fact, he noticed that his previous students, who also graduated high school through ALS, were able to secure a job when they were freed. Some became security guards and drivers. Some also pursued college.
Since 2017, at least 400 inmates graduated from ALS.
“Ako sila gi encourage, kay conception man gud sa PDL kung ALS kay walay kwenta. So ako sila gipasabot, daghan ang na encourage nga magpaenroll and eager sad sila makat-on,” he said.
For this school year, Aquino has 80 elementary and 180 Junior High school students. He teaches at least 40 in every class he handles.
FACES OF CEBU: Zoren Alesna, 31, teacher and LGBTQIA+ member