MANILA, Philippines – On the historic day of the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, education stakeholders begin a different battle: reaching out to millions of out-of-school youth in the Philippines.
This was how Education Secretary Armin Luistro introduced the Abot Alam (literally, education within reach) program, a 3-year initiative that will build a comprehensive database that will guide the government in bringing education and other services to young Filipinos who have failed to go to school for the past 15 years.
For 2014, the Department of Education (DepEd) targets to reach 1 million out-of-school youth aged 15 to 30 years old.
Aside from bringing all out-of-school youth back to the education system, the program can also help them find opportunties to improve their lives.
"Kapag nagpalista ka, magkakaroon ka ng Learner Reference Number...matutulungan ka hindi lamang ng DepEd, pati ng ibang ahensya ng gobyerno para makaangat ka at magkaroon ng oportunidad para sa iba't ibang uri ng pangangailangan mo," Luistro said on Thursday, March 27.
(If you enlist, you will have a Learner Reference Number. DepEd and other government agencies can help you with different opportunities for your different needs.)
For skills training and employment, they can be referred to the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority and the Department of Labor and Employment, respectively.
The CCT, regarded as the centerpiece of the Aquino government's anti-poverty program, gives cash incentives to poor households on the condition that recipients send their children to school and submit them to regular check-ups. PhilHealth, meanwhile, is the government's national health insurance program aimed at providing affordable health care to Filipinos.
The program's vision is to see a Philippines with no out-of-school youth.
Barangays urged to provide names
Based on the 2012 Labor Force Survey, there are 4.2 million out-of-school youth in the country, National Youth Commission (NYC) Chairman Leon Flores III said on Thursday.
A 2010 NYC survey showed 64% of them want to go back to school.
"Maraming iba’t ibang rason kung bakit hindi sila nakatapos ng high school at wala sila sa eskuwelahan. 'Yung eskuwelahan natin, dinadala natin ngayon kung nasasaan sila," Luistro said.
(There are many reasons why they were not able to finish high school, or why they're not in school. Now we're bringing school to wherever they are.)
Since its launch last year, the program has already been implemented in many barangays in the country, but Luistro urged the participation of all 42,028 of them.
If every barangay can identify just 164 new out-of-school youth for the next 6 months – like what Nagcarlan, Laguna, was able to do – the country can even exceed the 1 million target.
Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.