ILOCOS NORTE – It is harvest season for rice in Piddig, Ilocos Norte and 18-year old Roselle Agustin tends to household chores as both her parents are busy working in the field. Earlier this year, she was working as a domestic worker at Pasay City but she decided to go home when the load became too heavy for her.
Roselle also tried working at a canteen in Caloocan City and also as a domestic worker in Laoag City in 2009. Coming from a peasant family, Roselle did not have the chance to pursue college education after she graduated from high school in 2008 because her family could not afford it.
In a study made by the Education Network or E-Net Philippines together with the Asia South Pacific Association for Basic and Adult Education (ASPBAE) in 2008, out-of-school youths (OSYs) comprise 44 percent of the total population of school-age children and youth. In 2007, the number of OSYs in Ilocos Norte was pegged at 71,717.
As the budget allotment for education continues to decrease, children and youth coming from low-income families are at a bigger threat of becoming OSYs.
Budget for SUCs in the Ilocos region
According to Finela Mejia, North Luzon coordinator of the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP), a large number of youth hopes to enter state universities and colleges (SUCs) as its tuition and other fees are relatively lower than that of private tertiary institutions. “However, with the current budget given to education, and the looming cut for the coming school year, the youth are forced to either drop out or not pursue their schooling anymore.”
In the proposed budget for (SUCs) for the school year 2011-2012, there is an 8.7 percent decrease in the budget for Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses (MOOE) for the SUCs in Region I.
The MOOE pays for the electricity, water and other maintenance needs of the school.
“President Aquino’s plan to reduce the subsidy of SUCs in the coming years would result in an increase in tuition and other fees as the administration of SUC’s try to to find other means to defray their expenses”, Mejia said.
In 2007, only P 21.942 million ($510 thousand) was allotted for the MOOE of the University of Northern Philippines (UNP), the lowest in five years.
It was also in 2007 when the UNP administration increased the tuition from P75 to P100 ($1.74 to $2.30) per unit. The effect of the tuition increase was obvious when the student population dropped by 1.37 percent.
From the data collected by the Solidarity of Peasants Against Exploitation (Stop Exploitation), the regional organization of farmers in Ilocos, the average daily expenditure of a family of six in the region is P512 ($11.90). Meanwhile, the daily income of farm workers range only from P80-P200 ($1.86 to $4.65).
“It is hard for peasant families to prioritize education for their children as they have to respond to their daily needs first, such as food, which is already hard for them to provide given the grim living conditions of farmers,” Mejia said.
In Maruaya, Roselle’s baranggay, there is only one person who is able to attend college. Mary Rose, who is currently studying at the College of Industrial Technology- Mariano Marcos State University (CIT-MMSU) at Laoag City is able to attend school because her mother works abroad. However, Mary Rose knows that the money being sent to her was earned through the hard labor of her mother.
According to Roselle, although she hopes that she can study like Mary Rose, she knows that being the child of an overseas Filipino worker is not easy and that there are also times when money is scarce.
“Nu dagiti makapag-ad-adal ket marigatan payen iti gastusen kasanu pay kanyami nga saan pulos a makapag-adal?” (If those who are already studying are having a hard time due to the expenses being in school entails, what more for us who cannot even afford to enroll?), Roselle adds.
For Onad, the Sangguniang Kabataan (Village Youth) Chair in Maruaya, scholarship is available for him as a member of the SK. Still, he has not availed of the scholarship since his family cannot afford the other expenses that his schooling will entail. Instead of studying inside the classroom, Unad is sweating under the sun tilling their land.
“The youth of Maruaya are only among the large number of youth whose parents are farmers or workers earning barely earn enough for the daily needs of their families. The biggest victims of the budget cut in education are not those who come from middle class families, but those who are already striving hard just to survive. Education as a basic right protected by the Constitution would continue to be a dream for people like Roselle and Onad if the government would continue abandoning its responsibility to the education sector”, Mejia said.
Currently, a signature campaign is being circulated at Maruaya and other baranggays and in schools in the Ilocos region calling for the government to increase the budget for education. While waiting for the opportunity to study to come her way, Roselle is busying herself in gathering signatures that they hope to present to Congress on November 17, the commemoration of International Students Day.
According to Roselle, “Ti arapaap ko nga edukasyon ket saan laeng a para kanyak nu di ketdi kayat ko nga makapag-adal amin nga agtutubo.” (I hope for an education not only for myself but for all the youth.) (Bulatlat.com)