Lost Youth Should Be Grieved

The early years are supposed to be times of unlimited wonder and curiosity. When we are young, we are sometimes infinitely optimistic. We even think that everything is free. Why not, after all, there is air that we freely breathe, there is clean water whenever we are thirsty, and there is food whenever we are hungry. I remember that as a young child, although born in poverty, being indigent has evaded my consciousness. Sadly, for a lot of children in this world, childhood ends quite soon. And for the Philippines, landing on a top ten list is not that common, but when it comes to childhood ending soon, the country unfortunately finds itself near the top. A report from the Save the Children lists the Philippines at number 9 in the list of countries where children (0-5 years old) are malnourished.

Above copied from
Stolen Childhoods
About 1 in 3 young children in the Philippines experiences stunted growth. Save the Children writes, "Malnutrition robs children of the future they deserve. A young child who does not get enough food and nutrients cannot grow properly and can become too short for his/her age. This condition is called “stunting” and it prevents children from developing to their full potential, both mentally and physically." The Philippines also does not fare well in two other measures used in the report. The country experiences a high childhood (0-5 years old) mortality rate: 28 percent, that means more than 1 in four young children do not live to celebrate their fifth birthday. Teen pregnancy is also high, about 63 births out of 1000 are from teen mothers.

The large percentage of stunted children in the Philippines is truly diconcerting. The human brain develops and grows dramatically during these years. Stunted growth therefore means that these children are unable to fully develop mentally. These children are more likely to find the early years of basic education extremely challenging and frustrating. This is one of the problems that truly highlight how grossly the government of the Philippines has misplaced its priorities. Instead of spending more than a hundred billion pesos in adding two years to basic education, with a much smaller amount, the government can address malnutrition. Two additional years of basic education will not do any good to one third of Filipino children if these stunted children are very likely not to even finish elementary school.

There are several petitions before the Supreme Court asking to suspend DepEd's K to 12. These petitions have been waiting for two years already. It is really disconcerting that all branches of the government in the Philippines seem deaf to the real emergency. There are more than three million children aged 0-5 years, who are not only malnourished but are already stunted. Stunted growth is irreversible. But it can be easily prevented. 24 billion pesos in vouchers that the government has to spend for its ill-planned K to 12 would have been more than enough to prevent 3 million children from being malnourished.