Mayor Jasper Que: The Continuing Challenge to Lead
|Mayor Jasper speaking to the educators of Bongao|
Being a businessman, Mayor Jasper Que did not know that one day, he would be at the forefront of fighting for the improvement of Bongao’s education system. Found in the southern tip of Mindanao, Bongao is a second class municipality in Tawi-Tawi that is home to nearly 80,000 Filipinos. The city’s population is a diverse culture where several faith denominations are present. In 2010, Que was inducted as the Mayor of Bongao which gave him an opportunity to lobby for reforms in the education system aimed at providing a higher state of living for his citizens.
Prior to Mayor Jasper’s tenure in public service, he was mainly involved in operating their family business. He recalls how simple handling the family business was – noting that it suited the skills that he possessed. It was simple logic: business is all about finding the right suppliers and manufacturers for the right market to earn a profit. One person instrumental to Que’s changing mindset was his father.
A FATHER'S INFLUENCE
Albert Que was the former1 Mayor of Bongao who showed his son, Mayor Jasper, what it meant to lead by example in the public sector. This influence started as early as when Mayor Jasper was a child; he recalls how disciplined his father taught him to be. The learning process came in two forms: through the lessons that were verbally taught to him, and more importantly, through the kind of life that Albert Que lived.
Albert Que was instrumental in implanting good governance initiatives in Bongao that bolstered economic activities in the municipality; His belief was that, through better multi-sectoral engagement, the quality of life in Bongao would improve. Bongao's wet market and farm-to-road developments are testaments to the success of his tenure. He believed that livelihoods would "turn insurgents into farmers, their guns into farming bolos, bullets into seeds for planting, and tanks into tractors.”Mayor Jasper revealed that his father’s inspiring story pushed him to continue the good work of his father.
GEARING UP FOR PUBLIC SERVICE
Faced with the reality of leading an entire municipality, he admits that it was a daunting task. Mayor Jasper cites how different running a business is from participating in public service: “Mahirap magpatakbo ng isang bayan na wala kang alam eh. Sa politika iba, hindi tulad ng business na ikaw ang boss. Sa politika iba, buhay ng tao ang nakataya eh. Bottom-up.” [It’s hard to serve the municipality if you’re not knowledgeable enough. In politics, it is different, unlike in business where you are the boss. In public service, you hold the lives of the people you are serving. Bottom-up.] Being aware that his experience was mainly in business management, Mayor Jasper set out to prepare himself to join the public sector.
Mayor Jasper considers his father as the person who introduced him to the concept of Bridging Leadership. He would often join his father during Bridging Leadership sessions at the Asian Institute of Management (AIM). Encouraged by his father, Mayor Jasper also applied for the same program and was accepted into the fourth cohort of the Mindanao Bridging Leaders Program (MBLP).
BONGAO'S CASE FOR EDUCATION
In line with his advocacy, Mayor Jasper and co-MBLP fellow Abdulwahab Husin led reforms in the educational system of Bongao. Prior to the implementation of their change project, extensive data-gathering efforts were done to accurately illustrate the situation of education. Mayor Jasper cites this as a crucial step towards true institutional reform. To supplement these efforts, an Education Summit was organized with the goal of gathering the stakeholders of Bongao’s education system.
The summit aimed to promote transparency among stakeholders and communicate a common understanding of the issues of education in Bongao. The summit served as a platform for multi-sectoral engagement––representatives from the NGOs, religious groups, businesses, regional and local government, CSOs, academe, and the community were in attendance. In the process, teachers and principals became co-owners of this initiative.
|Mayor Jasper immersed in the Bridging Leadership workshop for Bongao Educators|
Mayor Jasper cites the significance of dialoguing with several stakeholders and making sure that they are on board the project to ensure its sustainability. The constant dialogue and co-ownership of the Local Government Unit (LGU) and Local School Board (LSB) were instrumental in determining the success of the project. Furthermore, he repeatedly cites the importance of empirical data for him to understand the true state of education in Bongao. Mayor Jasper recalls the time when some schools would alter test and evaluation results to show high marks, when the reality was contrary to that; he says that it is better to face the truth and handle it accordingly. With reliable and accurate data, mechanisms for the improvement of education become easier to put into motion. Tutorial classes were conducted for five months during weekends, and non-readers were highly encouraged to attend. Infrastructural developments focused on improving the facilities of the four pilot schools for a more conducive learning environment. For this particular component, several stakeholders pitched in: parents of students provided additional manpower while the LGU provided materials needed for the construction. Finally, the project recognized the intrinsic link between health and education – the feeding program aimed to support the learning capacity of the students.
Once Mayor Jasper and Abdulwahab Husin understood the state of the state of education in Bongao, the project became more clear. The data revealed three areas of focus that are necessary to improve the state of education in Bongao, namely the need for: (1) tutorial classes for non-readers, (2) infrastructural developments, and (3) feeding programs. Four schools were chosen to pilot-test the program, namely: Pag-asa Elementary School, Samakasulutan Elementary School, Lakit-Lakit Abdelminap Basl Elementary School, and Panglima Annao Elementary School.
Tutorial classes were conducted for five months during weekends, and non-readers were highly encouraged to attend. Infrastructural developments focused on improving the facilities of the four pilot schools for a more conducive learning environment. For this particular component, several stakeholders pitched in: parents of students provided additional manpower while the LGU provided materials needed for the construction. Finally, the project recognized the intrinsic link between health and education – the feeding program aimed to support the learning capacity of the students.
In line with Mayor Jasper’s inclination to evidence-based decision-making, evaluation strategies were set in motion; initial results showed considerable improvements. Pre-project, the average score of students in English, Science, and Math ranged from 31% to 36%. Three grading periods later, the average score in these subjects then ranged from 48% to 53%. Increases in reading & comprehension were also observed in the four pilot schools. The success of the project prompted the swift replication of these efforts in other schools in Bongao. Mechanisms for sustainability were also formalized by means of a signed agreement between the LGU and the first four pilot schools.
|Mayor Jasper during his fellowship in the Mindanao Bridging Leaders Program|
THE FUTURE FOR MAYOR JASPER
Mayor Jasper envisions Bongao to reach city status, believing that this would create economic opportunities beneficial to all stakeholders. In 2010, Bongao received the Galing Pook Award for their Administrative and Fiscal Reforms. Galing Pook recognized the municipality for its efforts in improving the living conditions of the people. From being a 4th class municipality, Bongao became a city of 2nd class status.
Mayor Jasper continues to see the strong influence of his father on the better life that the people of Bongao currently enjoy. While it has been a huge challenge to implement educational reforms, he is strongly committed to continue his father's legacy. His dedication to improving the education system has not wavered and he continues to engage the Local School Board of Bongao as his program is replicated across more schools. Together, they are hopeful that these reforms would allow them to reach their maximum economic potential towards a better future for the people of Bongao, especially their children.
|Mayor Jasper with the Local School Board of Bongao|
1 Albert Que’s tenure spanned from 2001 to 2010.
2 Galing Pook is a Philippine-based award giving body that recognizes innovation and excellence in local governance.