In the Philippines, sometimes when we’re with the children in public places, people ask, “Who are all these children? Are they siblings, but they look so different from each other and they are so many?” I sometimes say, “they are cousins” or “they are playmates”, or just ignore the question.
Now I have determined that the Love146 children will be called “scholars.”
I shared this with the children, and their eyes lit up when they heard the word “scholar” from me. And as I explained to them why “scholar” is an appropriate term for them, I think I saw great self-worth dawning upon their faces.
I told the children that they are scholars because when they enter Love146, they enter a school where they are educated in different ways: they go to formal schooling, public, private, or home study; and they are educated in home, life, farming, and gardening; they are also given skills in music and sports. They are educated about their physical and social surroundings in both academic and experiential ways; and they are educated in life itself through counseling and the kind of everyday interactions that the staff are trained to engage in.
Considering the children as our scholars removes the inevitable stigma attached to staying in an institution like ours. I have told some family members — those who have not been involved in the child’s exploitation — a couple of times in the past that children in the Round Home are actually scholars because of our emphasis on education. The term reassured them, and through that one word, they were enlightened about the situation of the children in the safe homes.
Using the word “scholar” can encourage the staff and the system to live up to the expectations of that word – that we are all teachers, in a way, and every moment should be a moment of learning for the children.
So recently, when we were with the children in a public place, and I was again asked, “who are these children?” I didn’t have to grope for an answer this time. I had a ready and happy reply: “They are our scholars.”
The askers nodded with awe and looked again at the children, this time with respect. And the children beamed with joy and pride.