The Department of Education(DepEd) on Thursday admitted that there is still a large number of school-aged children out in the streets, and that these young people face exploitation in all forms.
Department records showed that for school year 2007-2008, some 2.2 million children aged six to 12 years and 3.4 million aged 12 to 15 years are out of school, for a total of 5.6 million.
“Despite Philippine education being free and compulsory, we still have a staggering number of school aged children and youth out in the streets that face exploitation in all forms,” said Education Secretary Jesli Lapus.
Lapus, through the agency’s Project Reaching All Children, said that the Education department could bring these out-of-school youths back to the classrooms.
The department launched Project Reach during the recent National Educators Congress held at the Baguio Teachers’ Camp, as the department comes halfway through its 2015 target to achieve its Education For All goals.
“Find them, reach them and keep them in school,” Lapus said.
Lapus noted that getting children to enroll is already a big challenge and keeping them in school is even more daunting.
Studies by the department also showed that there is a dropout rate of 6 percent in elementary and 7.5 percent in the secondary level.
Poverty was identified as the biggest factor keeping children and the youth from enrolling or regularly attending school.
According to Lapus, Project Reach has two major components: Child Find and Innovative Interventions.
Child Find would be initiated by the school principal in collaboration with barangay councils who would conduct community assembly, family mapping, school-barangay posting and stakeholder assembly.
“Community involvement is critical here in identifying school-aged children in each family and in bringing educational intervention right at the barangay level,” Lapus stressed.
The project demands all community stakeholders to extend assistance even beyond the workplace and even beyond their working hours when necessary to minimize, if not eradicate, potential school dropouts.
The second component, Innovative Interventions, is comprised of two sets of interventions—the demand-side and the supply-side. The demand-side interventions involve assistance from the Education department’s partners.
These include adopt-a-child projects, supplementary feeding, scholarship grants, community voucher and subsidy programs in partnership with parent-teacher community associations.
The supply-side intervention are department-initiated and funded. It is focused on the enrichment of existing intervention programs and the provision of alternative education delivery modes.
“We intend to fully mobilize our education officials and personnel in intensifying working relations and social ties with our partners in education,” Lapus stressed. –James Konstantin Galvez, Reporter, Manila Times