Gamot Cogon – A Grass Roots School
Philippines: Gamot Cogon Waldorf School is located in a rural village in the province of Iloilo, which is often called the heart of the Philippines. Here, the children learn in a beautiful environment, surrounded by rice fields, a little river, grazing land for cattle, ponds and bamboo trees. The school's vivid name is derived from these rural surrounds. Gamot means roots, cogon is a grass variety known for its healing forces giving the picture of a healing education at the grassroots. Currently, around 300 pupils from kindergarten to Class 12 attend the school.
Nature speaks to children and the Gamot Cogon School tries to make the most out of this feature. The younger children look forward to their weekly nature walks by the rice fields, balancing on narrow paths of compacted soil and pointing at geese, storks, cows, geckos, kingfishers and so many other animals one may happen to spot. For the middle school, the students are often seen during break time climbing various kinds of trees, hanging off branches or building forts under bushes. The upper schoolers, often do artwork, handwork or poetry writing by the lake or under the shade of a big tree.
As Waldorf education is not a well-known concept in the Philippines, the surroundings also help with recruiting. The teachers report more than a few instances wherein a curious family visited the school prepared with many questions and criteria to help them decide whether to enrol, only to hear from their tiny child, immediately, upon entering the gates, "This is where I want to go to school."
Increasingly, the Philippine education system is dominated by private institutions, making it very difficult for poor families to facilitate a good education for their children. However, the Gamot Cogon School enrols children from all social classes. This of course clearly affects the school budget, as more than a third of the children are not able to pay more than a fraction of the school fees. Therefore, the school continues to rely on donations and external support, for example through education sponsors.
Cover photo by Damon Lynch