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Education frees the people (1)

My column two weeks ago elicited some heartening responses, kind people who want to help; and a Department of Education (DepEd) that seems to have its heart in the right place, if not the money to pump it.

Robert Chan of Atlanta Industries donated 160 new desks. David Du of Caliraya Springs Golf Resort sent in his electricians to determine what was needed to make the electrical system safe and working. They also compiled a list of needs. William Belo of Wilcon Depot (a hardware store I visit and spend money in weekly) agreed to supply materials plus toilets, sinks and plumbing requirements to bring some decency into the area. My good friend Johnson Ongking is providing all the Boysen paint needed to have the school look like new. My thanks to them.

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The DepEd responded, too. Secretary Leonor Briones wrote me a very positive response detailing the activities being undertaken to address the shortcomings I raised. Apparently, there is a fund for minor repairs and maintenance that each school principal receives. Maybe, though, it’s too limited. This is understandable when Congress doesn’t agree to all the funds requested. The DepEd has been able to construct some 120,000 new classrooms and renovate about 70,000, but this is only half of what they have. No doubt, most of those need improvement, too.

Article XIV, Section 5.5 of the 1987 Constitution stipulates that “the State shall assign the highest budgetary priority to education and ensure that teaching will attract and retain its rightful share of the best available talents through adequate remuneration and other means of job satisfaction and fulfillment.” That isn’t happening, is it?

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One thing DepEd MUST do is provide at least two fire extinguishers in every school, otherwise it’s guilty of manslaughter should a fire break out.

In a sensible move, the DepEd is prioritizing “Last Mile Schools,” a program that will improve schools either farthest from town centers, or those with makeshift/nonstandard rooms, without electricity, or did not have repairs/new construction projects in the last four years.

I’ve been involved in two other schools for a long time. One of them is in Bulacan.

I have a friend who’s an Irish priest, Jim Teeling. He came to the Philippines and saw the lost children, those without a mother and a father. So, in 1997 he opened an orphanage, Ateneo Casa Familia, with his own money. It had two dormitories for 20 boys and 20 girls, and a school.

Today, it’s a whole block in a town in Bulacan, with 500 orphans and poor students from primary to college. It teaches not just the four R’s, but trade skills from welding to computer technology—practical skills to help children be job-ready. A sign in the school says, “Education Frees the People.”

The other school I support is called Atriev (Adaptive Technology for Rehabilitation, Integration and Empowerment of the Visually Impaired). It’s a school for the blind set up by two enterprising young people, Tony Llanes and Carol Catacutan, both blind, to help others like them. Many years ago, I was at a presentation they participated in where they brought a blind young lady on stage who showed her typing skills. I was touched, so I decided to help.

They teach the blind to type, then seek jobs for them. One call center, Sitel, employs them to monitor calls and type a report. They can transfer oral calls and recordings to written documents, and have transcribed all my speeches. We need job openings for them. They are talented young people trying to make a better life for themselves.

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As I turn 80 (on Monday), helping young people start off their lives with proper education so that they will have a decent, fulfilling life is an important task. Education breaks poverty.

Going beyond that, where I’m equally concerned is how we teach, and what we teach. Teaching is going to have to change, and it’s going to have to be split into two: one for those who will capture the world of the fourth revolution, and another for those who’ll just need a job. For the latter group, today’s curriculum provides all that is needed. But for those who’ll be taking up the challenges of the IT world, a vastly different system will be needed.

(To be continued)

E-mail: [email protected]

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TAGS: Atlanta Industries, Caliraya Springs Golf Resorts, David Du, DepEd, education, Johnson Ongking, Leonor briones, Like It Is, Peter Wallace, Robert Chan, Wilcon, William Belo
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