The roots of an empowered educator

24 January 2024

After her school was approached by Plan International Pilipinas with a proposal to improve their ICT learning facilities supported by MIDAS IT Co. Ltd, School Principal Carolyn Simon unearths a personal backstory 28 years in the making. As it turns out, this empowered educator was once a participant of the Plan International Sponsorship Programme herself.

Carolyn Simon grew up in a humble home in Camarines Sur. Her hometown of Hiwacloy was situated at the foot of Mt. Isarog, about half an hour away from the town proper. Though Carolyn fondly remembers having a happy childhood, it was not without its challenges. When her father died, she was faced with the possibility of not being able to finish schooling.

“I did not know if I could even go to college because no one was there to support me. My mother would always tell me, ‘Tumigil ka na lang sa pag-aaral kasi mag-aasawa ka rin naman’,” recounted Carolyn. (Translation: You should just stop schooling ‘cause you’ll eventually get married anyway.”)

Woman looks to a school field
Principal Carolyn Simon looks out at the school field / Photo by: Roman Esguerra, Plan International Pilipinas

Determined to set her own course, she instead looked for other opportunities, such as sponsors and scholarships. Around this time, she encountered Plan International Pilipinas’ Bicol Field Office and her family became one of the sponsored families of the area. With the help they received, Carolyn was able to pursue a career in education, eventually becoming a Principal of a public science high school in Quezon City.

With the eventual closure of the Bicol Field Office in 2004, she thought this would be her last encounter with Plan International. Little did she know, 28 years after she graduated college, her school would be approached by the same organisation, as one of the selected partners in the improvement of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) learning facilities and delivery of quality digital learning to students, supported by MIDAS Information Technology Co. Ltd.

“I said to myself, God is so good because our school is indeed in need of ICT support to cater to the academic needs of our learners. This was timely since our requests for ICT equipment have not been funded yet by our Local Government Unit and the Department of Education Schools Division Office,” she shared.

Woman speaks onstage behind a podium
Principal Carolyn Simon speaks at the project launching event / Photo by: Roman Esguerra, Plan International Pilipinas

Through this partnership, Plan International Pilipinas is set provide ICT equipment in one high school and two colleges, and conduct capacity-sharing activities for students and teachers on digital literacy gender equality and inclusion, inclusive education, child protection and safeguarding.

For Carolyn, Plan International has left an unforgettable mark on her, from her days as a participant of the sponsorship programme to her time now as the principal of a partnered school.

“Wherever I may go, I will never forget the help that I personally got from this organisation,” she said in her message during the ICT project launch ceremony. “I always tell my story to school children with the hope that they will be inspired by my story.”

As a last note, she acknowledged that gender inequality and injustice continues to exist. “But because there are people and organisations like Plan International who are helping girls like us, women like me,” she said, “that is the reason I stand here today, able to persevere and continue succeeding.”

Education, Youth empowerment, Livelihoods, Sponsorship, Technology for development