Education is a basic right, but why is there a huge number of out-of-school youth? Why is the drop-out rate high?
By LHEALYN VICTORIA
MANILA — She was an Iskolar ng Bayan (people’s scholar), a student council leader back in her college days. And with the proclamation of the winning partylist groups last week, another title, and with it another responsibility, was laid on the shoulders of Sarah Elago, now legislator and representative of the Kabataan Partylist in the incoming 17th Congress.
Elago, 25, holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Hotel, Restaurant and Institution Management at the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman. As an activist, Elago was an artist, a member of the UP Repertory Company (UP Rep) and UP Kontemporaryong Gamelan Pilipino, a theater arts performing group.
As her performing organizations staged shows in the provinces, Elago realized how other state universities and colleges lacked school facilities and equipment. This opened her eyes to the reality that not all students in state universities and colleges receive the same level of quality education that she was getting in UP.
As student councilor in UP Diliman for two years, Elago also realized how important it was for a leader to help make other youths aware about the different issues in the education sector and the whole Philippine society.
When she joined NUSP in her senior year in college, she became more aware of the plight of the poor youth, specially how many are deprived of education. NUSP, a national formation of student councils from different schools, asserts that education is a right. Elago said NUSP helped shape her as an individual and activist. The NUSP is also one of the founding organizations of Kabataan Partylist.
Being an activist brought Elago to centers of poverty, oppression and struggle. She was part of the relief and cleanup operations by youth activists in the aftermath of Typhoon Ondoy (Ketsana) in 2009, which brought devastating floods to Metro Manila. She also integrated with the farm workers of Hacienda Luisita, and learned of their hardships. She realized how hard the life of farmers could get, especially during calamities, when their crops are destroyed, their income lost, and they are buried deeper in debts. That is why the education of their children is sometimes compromised.
“Education is a basic right, but why is there a huge number of out-of-school youth? Why is the drop-out rate high? Why is there a case like Kristel Tejada who was pushed over the edge? Why is the child of a farmer unable to go to college — even in a state university — without a government or any other financial assistance?” Elago said.
Elago believes that education is crucial to the development of an individual, and as the lone, incoming representative of Kabataan Partylist, she promised that she will fight for the interest of the youth to have an accessible and quality education. Another inspiration of Elago in her fight for education are the progressive Lumad – the indigenous peoples of Mindanao – whose learning centers in their communities are proof of their struggle for the right to education of the younger generation.
“Education is not just a way up of a person in the social ladder, but it could also arm him or her with the confidence to fight for his/her rights and welfare. That’s why it is important for everyone to be educated,” Elago stressed.
Aside from pushing for accessible and quality education for every youth, Kabataan Partylist also aims to help enact a law on the national minimum wage and employment opportunities for all.
Elago said every youth has a role to fulfill so that real change in society could really happen. As leader, she takes it as her role to address the needs and issues of the youth, and encourages others to help shape history to lay the foundation for the future generation.
(Photo grabbed from Ms. Elago’s Facebook page)