Friday, May 12, 2006

The EKK’s quest for the future by Billy Bernaldez

Sometimes, Mayet Betaloso could still recall the children’s voices while playing in the shabby streets of the late Baseco Compound in Port Manila. Screaming and laughing… although in reality, their worn faces showed what they have suffered from four- simultaneous- fire that razed their homes yearly since 2002 to 2005.

But now, she could breathe lighter than before as she glimpse a little hope for the realization of the dreams of these children, when a tutorial program was established at Baseco Compound which was the Edukasyong Kabalikat sa Kaunlaran (EKK). EKK aims to break the cycle of poverty through education.

Initiated through the help of KABALIKAT, a local organization that intends to improve the lives of Baseco families, the project was initially financed by an international social foundation for its implementation. It includes the rental fees of a small classroom, procurement of the chairs, tables, facilities and for the salaries of the teachers hired.

“Karamihan sa mga bata dito, pagkagaling sa paaralan ay naglalaro sa mga estero at kanal ng mga kalye. Kaya nga kami ay natutuwa at kahit papaano ay meron ng pupuntahan na maayos na lugar yung mga bata,” (Most of the children here, after schooling, are playing in the canals of the streets. That is why we are so glad now that there is a good place where the children can go) says Jeorgie Tenolete, president of KABALIKAT.

Since 2003, EKK had invited many children, mostly from the lower sections of Grade five and six with general average of 79 and below, from Herminigildo Atienza Elementary School (HAES) to attend the tutorial class. However, due to the small area of the classroom and the immense number of enrollees, EKK could accommodate students only for a limited time per day.

“It is good that many children were enrolled in the program though we know that we could never accommodate them all. What is important is that the program would help this children tap their educational incompetence,” Betaloso said, one of the founder of the EKK.

But unfortunately, the EKK noticed that there is something wrong happening with the children. Last July 2005, the EKK had 130 initial numbers of registered pupils; but as the months passed, this number was reduced, till then there’s only 35 pupils left at the end of the school year.

One of the main problems sighted by the EKK regarding this problem is poverty. The parents, instead of sending their children in tutorial class after schooling in HAES, sent their children to work where they can to earn additional money for their living.

“Many children do not really work after all. They were so young to finance their family’s living. What they actually do is play on the streets which makes them less-educated. That is why the EKK made some actions to remedy the situation.” says Laarni Salanga, teacher of the EKK tutorial class and educational consultant of the Urban Poor Associates (UPA), a non-government organization working with the urban poor.

But things get worst when another problem arose. Lately, they asked the HAES administration to help them identify low-comprehended pupils to be brought in the tutorial classes, however, just July last year, the public school renounced its support.

“I was so sad, in behalf of the EKK program, when I learn that the school doesn’t want to help us anymore. Perhaps, they misinterpreted the strategy we are using to give responsibility for parents to send their children in the tutorial program,” Salanga said.

Salanga said that the reason why the school withdraws its cooperation is because of the 15 pesos fee that the EKK collects on each pupil every month which started since July 2005. She stressed that parents are not forced to pay this fee and that it was only a way to encourage them to send their children in the tutorial class. And as a matter of fact, from their record, out of 50 parents who agreed to pay the fee, 12 paid for the first month while only four completed the payments for the school year.

The school however did not accept the explanation of the EKK.

The HAES reasoned out to EKK, that the public school should not collect fees from the parents of their pupils. The school administration doesn’t want to intrude the transaction anymore because they are afraid that the school might be sued for this collection.

“The parents have already understood the purpose of the fee and there is nothing malicious about it. I know that the school would cooperate if they can only understand the needs of under-achievers and the importance of tutorial classes,” Salanga said.

The argument was brought by the EKK to the District Supervisor of Manila, however, the school is firm with their stand not to render any help unless the P15 fee will be abolished.

Presently, the EKK has already stopped their pursuance to seek help from the public school (although a little support from them will be a great help for the program and for the Baseco children). What the EKK program is hoping for is that somehow the said school will help these poor children achieved their dreams.

“I want to be a Computer Engineer in the future. If there would still be a tutorial class to help me, maybe I could do it,” says Jun, a graduating student in HAES.

EKK was still there to give hope for the realization of the dreams of the Baseco children. -30-

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