The human face of statistics PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 22 September 2014 13:45



We often read reports about the number of  school children who drop out of school before they finish the elementary grades; or those who experienced physical abuse from one or both  parents ; or who learned to smoke cigarettes as an adolescent. But these are just statistics and they don’t take on a face until we interact with someone who is or was a statistic in any of these variables. And somehow things change in how we view these statistics.

I had occasion recently to interact with someone who is/was a statistic in  these variables when I interviewed a young woman who was applying to work as a maid in our house. I was told she is from one of the barangays in the east coast, age 19, one in a family of  10 children. She only went to Grade 2 and then quit schooling. She also admitted to smoking cigarettes.

She said her father likes his drink and when under the influence of liquor he gets violent and lays hands on his wife and his children. I asked her why she stopped schooling at Grade 2 and  she said it was difficult for her family to meet the school expenses of 10 children. When  I said  “A  public school is  free, no tuition  is charged “ she remarked that the  public elementary school in their place was too far away from their house and it was too tiring to walk there and back every school day.

Perhaps this young woman was not motivated enough to attend school  under the circumstances in her life and so I found myself with a much greater appreciation of the young children who have been helped by the Yellow Boat Foundation started by Dr. Anton Lim. These kids now take the  boat to school instead of swimming across the narrow sea inlet  as they used to do.

Having  spent much of my adult life either studying  or teaching others I cannot  imagine what it would be like to be 19 years old and barely able to read. I have a grandchild who is 7 and now in Grade 2. She is no genius but is able to use the computer and can find  in YouTube the video for “Frozen”  which she loves. But what if you can’t read?

The young woman I interviewed told me that she learned to smoke when she was 12 and has been  smoking since. She learned to smoke from friends her own age. I asked her if she knows  about the  threats to health from smoking and she said yes and she is trying to stop.

When we consider the Napoles scam with the PDAF money and all the other millions that have been stolen by the “honorables” in our government over the years, and we think about all that could have been done with this money for education, for public health, for people development – we wish the worst karma ever for those “honorables”.

I remember  a line from a book by  Antoine de Saint- Exupery  when he described his feeling on seeing a street child asleep in a  side walk in Madrid : “I saw Mozart murdered.”