Clinging to One Last Shred of Hope

Schools have just started in the Philippines. Back to school is supposed to be exciting. It marks the end of the summer brain drain. And for those who are just about to start school for the first time in kindergarten, parents can be as anxious as their children. It is a new world. It is a time to begin becoming independent. It is a time to make new friends. There are indeed a lot of reasons to get excited for there are so many good things to come. So we make sure the backpack is ready. We must have sharpened pencils, brand new notebooks, and crayons. Such excitement does make you wonder how children in Marawi city in the Philippines feel about the start of school this year.

A section of Marawi city, heavily damaged by the fighting between Philippine armed forces and the Maute group.
Photo copied from Community Newswatch PH
Pictures of despair, however, are not exclusive to war-torn Marawi. In the Philippines, even in places where there is no armed conflict, the start of the school year is void of excitement. Even the Secretary of Education in the Philippines describes the start of this new school year as "boring".

Above copied from TopNewsPH
DepEd Secretary Briones calls the the first day of school as "boringly normal". Schools affected by the war in Mindanao are obviously not starting the school year in a normal fashion. Perhaps, what Briones is referring to is the normal shortages brought to light in every first day of school in the Philippines. After all, more than 2 out of three schools in the National Capital Region still have to employ multiple shifts.

There is, however, something new in this school year, This is the first time twelfth grade, the last year of basic education, will be offerred nationwide. What this means, first of all, is that we now have data regarding how many students actually continued through the additional years of basic education in the Philippines. Anakbayan shares the recent numbers:

Above copied from Anakbayan
There are now an additional 2.5 million school dropouts due to DepEd's K to 12. These numbers should not be surprising given the fact that the Philippine government is not really capable of providing two additional years of high school. DepEd has relied on voucher programs but as noted in a previous post on this blog, only 3.95 billion of the allotted 12 billion pesos have been spent. And Anakbayan actually lists some of the schools that have received funds through these vouchers:

Ateneo de Manila P137,170,000
San Beda College P42,152,000
De La Salle University P200,662,000
STI Computer College P825,550,000
AMA Computer University P417,868,000
University of the East P93,104,000
Ayala APEC schools P50,097,600
Far Eastern University P59,664,000
National University P11,054,000
Phinma schools P177,562,000
University of Santo Tomas P98,296,000

“The only way to bring more students to school is for government to reverse its habit of underfunding public education, which will enable government to build and maintain more public schools, especially junior and senior high schools,”