Focus on education, not just on sports | Inquirer Opinion
Commentary

Focus on education, not just on sports

/ 05:06 AM November 23, 2023

The barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections held on Oct. 30, 2023, specified that an SK official must be a citizen of the Philippines, a qualified voter of the Katipunan ng Kabataan, a resident of the barangay for at least one year immediately before the election, must be at least 15 but not over 21 years old on election day, be able to read and write in Filipino, English, or the local dialect, and must not have been convicted of any crime involving moral turpitude.

Despite such strict qualifications, the SK election has become a popularity contest, with those who are known in the barangay and have many friends at an advantage. Regardless of their credentials and platforms, candidates who have a lot of connections in the barangay are bound to win. Thus has “celebrity politics” and/or “personality politics” become ascendant in the SK elections.

Another issue raised against SK officials is how they’ve focused mainly on sports competitions, or “pa-liga” in their projects. While there is nothing wrong in holding sports competitions in the barangay since they develop the skills and talent of the youth, SK officials should also look at young people holistically. That is, the youth should be developed not only physically, but also mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

Other projects can be proposed and implemented, which can focus on the environment, health, and education. And the projects should be specific, as in “free mental health consultation,” “free printing [of learning materials] for students,” or “disaster risk reduction training.” Instead of motherhood statements, they should provide concrete projects as part of their platform.

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The most important platform SK officials should focus on is education. According to the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS), “ … the challenges facing the education sector in the Philippines are complex and multifaceted, ranging from poverty to armed conflict, lack of resources and infrastructure, and the digital divide. Addressing these challenges will require a comprehensive and multidimensional approach, including strategies to create more job opportunities, improve social services, and support education and skills development, as well as providing alternative learning opportunities in conflict-affected areas, and investing in education infrastructure.

“Bridging the digital divide is also essential, particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. By ensuring that all Filipinos have equal access to education, the country can unlock the full potential of its people and contribute to sustainable development. The government, supported by international organizations and the private sector, must continue to prioritize education, and invest in its future,’’ it said.

The problems and trajectories mentioned here should be taken into consideration by SK officials. For example, the free printing and photocopy services or computer research hubs for students I proposed earlier can address the gap in the digital divide for young people who have no internet connection and gadgets at home. Such project will lessen the students’ financial burden.

To address poverty, scholarship programs or cash assistance for indigent students can be proposed. Aside from the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, this initiative can help the poor uplift themselves.

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As far as the ongoing armed conflict in some parts of the Philippines is concerned, the PIDS pointed out the many challenges it has created in the education sector, often making it difficult for children to continue their studies. SK officials can thus propose learning hubs where there are tutors who can teach and guide students in their lessons as some sort of supplement to classroom learning, especially in areas affected by conflict or environmental factors.

Other programs can include distributing free school supplies, holding academic contests with awards and recognition, art contests, livelihood or skills training, and programs that focus on gender and development, career development, reproductive health, leadership training, financial literacy, anti-drug campaign, HIV awareness, mental health, and so on. For these suggested projects, officials can coordinate with schools in their barangay or civic organizations willing to be their partners.

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I am not saying that sports activities should be set aside. But I think that the most important investment that local officials can make is to focus on the educational needs of the youth. This cannot be done by schools alone. That’s why a whole-of-society approach with the help of different stakeholders, including the SK, is very important. As it has been said, “it takes a village to raise a child.”

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Joseph D. Ramiscal is a senior high school teacher at the Nemesio I. Yabut Senior High School, where he teaches social sciences subjects.

TAGS: Commentary, education, sports

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