Back to school blues PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 23 May 2015 08:27

Table Talk

BY Mike S Apostol

In a few days from now, it’s back to school. Happiest at this time are the thousands of elementary pupils and high school students who will be meeting their friends and classmates after almost two months of separation.    On the other hand, the most worried are the parents who will bear the burden of the rising cost of education. Higher tuition and matriculation fees, more contributions, rising cost of uniforms and increase of daily allowances of students who have to come across also to the rising cost of transportation fares and “snacks” sold in canteens. These problems are not only felt by students in private schools but even in public schools where government subsidy for free education is not totally implemented or not implemented at all, because we still hear of complaints from parents who enrolled their children in government schools. Most hard hit are parents in the municipalities and barangays in the outlying provinces, where the Department of Education (DepEd) has little supervision or none at all because of the problem of accessibility.

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Take the case of an elementary school in Maruing, Lapuyan, Zamboanga Del Sur, some 260 Kilometers from the DepEd regional Office in Zamboanga City or some 60 kilometers from the new regional center in Pagadian City. Any activity of the school,  both high school and elementary, is borne by their parents through personal contributions ranging from 50 to 200 pesos. What makes it very difficult for the parents is, most of them are farmers, marginal to below the poverty line families and having only enough for their daily subsistence. If a student is not capable of giving the contribution, they or their parents have to work in school grounds for two weekends and worst class grading cards are withheld until the contribution is paid. I know this, because I have seen it, since my farm is in that municipality and I stay there most of the time in a yearnow that I have retired from the government. Most parents just keep the issue to themselves lest they get the ire of school authorities. This is tyranny, especially so, the community is composed of 100% Subanen Indigenous People, whom the government is supposed to protect under Republic Act  No. 8371 otherwise known as the the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act  (IPRA LAW) of 1997. The DepEd must do something to alleviate the plight of Subanen parents in Maruing (pronounced marwing) Lapuyan, Zamboanga Del Sur.

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Last March 2015, graduation day for high school, I was in Maruing, Lapuyan, Zamboanga Del Sur.One mother came to me one early morning. She has a small farm in my land and was asking for a cash advance for a farm job she has not yet performed. I asked why? She said that she has to contribute for her child  and parents snacks during the graduation activity. She further said that “I cannot do the “pahina” this weekend, because I have to finish the clearing of the farm for my upland rice because the season to plant upland palay is almost to come. I did not argue but readily gave in to her request. I said to myself, “how about those who do not have any farm at all, but only rely on their meager commission in selling fish house-to-house walking for many kilometers daily?” The government system of free education is not working in the barangays, it is even an additional burden to the less fortunate, DepEd must look into this malady.It might be happening all over the barangays in the provinces.

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What made the situation unconscionable in a school activity in a barangay government school is, when it is time for the snacks or meals, students and parents are made to take their meals in a different place away from the school faculty, guest and visitors, municipal and school officials. Parents and students are given packed snacks and lunches from their contributions while the faculties, visitors and guests are feasting in tables laden with delicious foods, prepared and cooked by the parents. What a way of treating poor and innocent parents in far-flung barangays. School teachers ought to realize that their mission is to enlighten the families in neglected barangays and not to abuse their innocent and naive hospitality. Who knows, one of those IP Subanen students might one day be a pillar in the community provided that at this early stage, they are taught the right way to the future. DepEd: Don’t ask Table Talk, but please have a look and see for yourselves if your program of a free education is working in far flung areas.

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Scoop: How many government school teachers in the provinces are really teaching the whole day and not tending their family business during office hours? How many of them are engaged in money lending (5-6), buy and sell of copra and farm products? This is an enterprising venture but it is against their sworn oath to work, it is the reverse of public service.