Delegation from the Philippines visiting Blackfalds

Going to school in Canada looks to be more fun and more productive than in the Philippines, says the mayor of Jagna, Bohol.

Gail Hall

BLACKFALDS — Going to school in Canada looks to be more fun and more productive than in the Philippines, says the mayor of Jagna, Bohol.

Mayor Exam Lloren is among a delegation of five municipal officials, including two other mayors, who have been matched with the Town of Blackfalds in a technological exchange program organized and funded by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.

The group has been touring the town and its surrounding region since last Saturday, learning about the partnerships Blackfalds has formed with its neighbours, including Lacombe, Red Deer and Lacombe County.

Lloren and his fellow travellers spent Thursday morning at the Iron Ridge Elementary School, slipping into a few classrooms to watch spelling lessons, physical education and music instruction.

They found some amazing differences from public schools in the Philippines, where children normally wear uniforms and classrooms have upwards of 40 children per teacher because there is so little space available for smaller teacher-student ratios, said Lloren.

His duties as Jagna’s full-time mayor include serving as co-chair of the school board.

Given the chance, he would happily roll back the clock to become a Grade 1 student at Iron Wood.

Lloren was amazed to see the fun Grade 1 students were having with their spelling and music lessons.

The delegation clapped and cheered after watching the teacher and students singing and acting out the movements of Robot Man and they watched in awe as a phys-ed class circled the gym on roller blades, courtesy of a youthful instructor brought in once a year to teach the unit.

“I am taking these ideas back home with me,” said Lloren.

Blackfalds’ partnership with the four municipalities from the Island of Bohol — Jagna, Garcia Hernandez, Guindulman and Duero — was set up in April. Two staff and one councillor from Blackfalds, including CAO Corinne Newman, went to the Philippines for a month to meet the Bohol administrators and evaluate needs in the town’s partner municipalities.

The partners decided to work on improving access from rural areas to services and opportunities in the larger centres.

A system of “farm-to-market” roads would improve farmers’ ability to sell produce in urban markets, bring more children into regional schools and improve health care through access to medical centres, said Newman.

Some Blackfalds staff will return to the Philippines in September to work on the project, she said.

“It’s not that we’re going over and building the roads. We’re working on a project plan with them to ensure those four communities work together. They pool their resources, they pool their equipment and this is the way we’re going to tackle these roads.”

The exchange program has benefits for Blackfalds as well as for the cluster of municipalities from Bohol, said Newman.

“Blackfalds has many partnerships. That’s how we get a lot of stuff done for our citizens. It gives us an opportunity to have a global perspective. It has an impact for our citizens, learning new cultures, meeting new people, and also for our staff, it’s a tremendous professional development opportunity.”

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