RIGHT: Introducing Inclusive Education, Introducing A Right Future
Along the busy, bland streets of A.S. Fortuna sits a bright colored house; decorated with kiddie artworks, colored mats, beautiful plants and welcome tarpaulins, giving off a healthy, happy vibe that makes both children and adults feel at home as soon as they step in. This cozy house is the home of R.I.G.H.T. Day Care Incorporated and of R.I.G.H.T. Open Institute.
Abbreviated from the institution’s basic concepts– Respect, Individuality, Good life, Humanity and Truth– it is an institute that caters to all children of diverse necessities, such as those with special educational needs. It is the first of its kind in the Philippine educational daycare system to focus on children with special disabilities. R.I.G.H.T. Day Care introduces its concept of inclusive education, wherein children with or without special educational needs come to learn, play, and discover new things together.
Aside from the drop-in day care service, R.I.G.H.T. Day Care offers other services to all who are in need, branching out to psychotherapy services, speech and language services, psychological assessment, respite care, home visits, support groups, case management, advocacy, and tutorials.
“Just and fair societies begin with individuals who know and respect their own fundamental rights and those of others. When individuals are guided to acknowledge their most basic rights and see the same in others… the world will be just, fair, and free and everyone will have an opportunity to live full and abundantly.” Those few sentences express the purpose and the vision of RIGHT. It aims to “help bring out in a child a genuine appreciation for his/her own rights and the rights of others to be Respected as unique Individuals entitled to a Good and happy life through meaningful participation in the Human communities and just entitlement to the Truth.”
“We want to see communities or societies where individuals are self-directed towards acknowledging their rights and the rights of other people; respecting each other”, states Robby Echavez, one of the administrators of R.I.G.H.T. Day Care. His desire for the proper care of children with special needs led him to conceptualize and set the idea of R.I.G.H.T. with a colleague, to what it is now. He began by explaining to other people the concept of the day care, and received very affirmative, motivating replies. “When we saw that there was a need for a school that caters children with special educational needs, and that no one was going towards that direction, that is establishing a day care where you could have both typical kids and special education kids in, that was the most motivating factor: we might be the first one to do it,” he recalls. Starting from scratch, he and his team all agree that “the most powerful marketing and advertising tool is to simply tell people what our purpose is, and to give each one an opportunity to help the day care in some way”, and that insofar as the institute has started, advertising was only done by word of mouth, and collaboration with different groups with varied interests.
R.I.G.H.T. Seven, and the Loving and Diligent Many
Currently there are seven children in the day care: five of whom with special educational needs. The parents of the children are people that the administrators know on a personal level, from people encountered from their psychotherapy, consulting, or the volunteer work they do. “These are people who trust us; out of that trust they thought that this is the place for their children”. The age of the kids at the day care are from eight months to twenty-four years old – a mixed group, as Echavez calls it – as physical age is not a primary factor, for at R.I.G.H.T., children with special needs are taken care of, despite their physical age.
Along with fellow administrator Mary Rose Velasco, both with backgrounds in counselling and teaching, Echavez makes sure that the day-to-day operations of the day care go smoothly and that everything that happens at the day care is aligned with its mission and vision.
Assisting the children in their day-to-day activities are two Child Development Workers, Ms. Jovelyn Abiero and Ms. Esteria Pepito, who both have graduated with degrees in Special Education and Professional Education respectively, as well as experience in attending to kids with special educational concerns. Both of them tirelessly guide the children and help them, as well as the preparation of the activities for the kids, along with the members of the Board of Directors. When one or both of the teachers are absent, Echavez and Velasco take turns in personally attending to the children.
All the activities are planned way ahead of time; sometimes with volunteers and collaborators, such as a few volunteers from Denmark, who provide their suggestions. They make weekly activities in advance and always in a group, planned and premeditated.
It’s more fun at R.I.G.H.T.
Aside from a weekly activity plan that centers on a monthly theme, activities at R.I.G.H.T. do not follow a strict format, but
has a more interactive, happy inclusive environment set up. At R.I.G.H.T., there is more room for activity and the children are not pushed to do anything if they are not interested. Instead, the children are supported and guided towards whatever they choose to do. “We think that children learn best when they are self-directed; when they are self-motivated. When they want to do something and you support them, that’s the best form of learning. Our philosophy is just being with the kids and supporting them all the way through”, says Echavez. He believes that it is in this way that the children learn more because they are not forced but instead they are doing things they enjoy, like play. Although there are integrated “set” activities, the children are still free to do what they want most of the time.
The R.I.G.H.T. Open Institute (TROI) Project
Younger than its counterpart, TROI is an open institute that started from an idea of utilizing the R.I.G.H.T. house on the afternoons after the day care sessions have ended. This project, modeled after open institutes in other countries, aims to gather people of different interests and use the R.I.G.H.T. house as a venue for discussion and the flowing of ideas. “It’s about people and interests merging at the daycare. We’re just happy that it’s moving, inviting more people, and unfolding”, Echavez shares.
Since its beginning, three courses have been created: Logic and Ethics, Psychotherapy, and Music Theory. They plan to open a Genius Discussion class soon. The classes are held every Fridays, starting at 1:30 in the afternoon. Timeslots for the course discussions vary depending on the class’ choice. People young and old are welcome to visit and participate in the discussions since it is free. “There are no set criteria for who can come in and listen to the lectures. Perhaps, if there is a criteria, the minimum would be that you should be able to engage meaningfully in the discussion”.
At R.I.G.H.T., freedom, justice, and fairness are given importance, promoting the most fundamental values of man: Respect, Individuality, Good life, Humanity, and Truth.
Robby Echavez invites everyone, young and old, to visit the clean and spacious R.I.G.H.T./TROI house located at Monterroyo Compound, A.S. Fortuna Street, Banilad, Mandaue, and avail of the services they offer. Anyone can also visit their Facebook accounts (Right Day Care; The Right Open Institute) or send them an email at[email protected].