Making gov’t and NGOs work to ‘help people help themselves’ (Part 3 of a series)

Published by rudy Date posted on February 5, 2009

The Philippines today is governed by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s social reform and poverty reduction program 2004-2010. Under her are the cabinet secretaries whom she meets weekly. They are represented in the National EFA Committee (NEC), which has been meeting frequently to advocate and transform UNESCO’s Education For All programs into Education for Sustainable Development (ESD).

Resolving 2 alarming problems out of the 8 UN MDGs

In a recent meeting, the UN Country Team has asked the UNESCO National Commission of the Philippines (NatCom) what the country’s situation is in accomplishing the UN Millennium Development Goals. Their effort to help the government will depend on how our country is resolving the two alarming problems out of the eight UN MDGs:

Before the Senate Forum on the Role of Legislation in Advancing the UN MDG 2015, the dynamic UN Population Fund country representative Suneeta Mukherjee reported to the Philippine senators that the net enrollment rate in elementary schools has been dropping since SY 2003-2004 at 88.74% to 83% in SY 2006-2007. The figures do not look promising but with proper government and private sector intervention and cooperation the situation can still be reversed.

The more difficult task is the reduction of maternal deaths to 52 per 100,000 live births by 2015. As of 2006, maternal mortality rate plateaued at 162.

The ESD formula for community preschools

In the January 22 UNESCO ESD Workshop in Action at the SEACLLSD National Laboratory, the NEC member agency representatives from 22 government agencies and NGO observed preschoolers, as well as grade school and professional high school students, engaged in sustainable development activities in contrast to the traditional students who work mainly with textbooks or computers.

In 1983, the OB Montessori Child and Community Foundation succeeded in establishing the Pagsasarili Preschools in partnership with the National Housing Authority. It was replicated in seven laborers’ district (former slum areas) in Metro Manila. In 2002, the Pagsasarili EFA-Dakar system was piloted in the Angeles Elementary School in Pampanga. It will graduate the first group of Grade VI students this year. To sustain the Ifugao Rice Terraces World Heritage Sites, seven mayors requested for the conversion of their day care centers to Pagsasarili Preschools in 2004.

Since the governors and mayors in partnership with DSWD provincial officers of Ifugao Rice Terraces, Batangas, Pampanga, Marikina and Metro Manila have adopted the Pagsasarili preschools, their constituents have observed that their graduates have achieved third grade competencies and generally speak English. They are also among the top 10 students in Grade I. The parents have good feedbacks and help the project become self-sustainable by paying monthly fees of P200 to P500.

These have been realized by the mayors who use the Special Education Funds devolved from 1% tax on real property collected by the LGUs to serve the local communities. In agreement with the Local School Board, this could be used for province-wide education projects, including adult literacy and skills training courses.

Projects of the DILG and their partners

The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) works with practically all government agencies like DepEd, BALS, DSWD, DA, DOH, DOLE, and DTI. Local government also partners with ULAP (local authorities), NAPC (anti poverty), NIPC (indigenous people) and OMA (Muslim affairs).

The DILG represented by Assistant Chief of the Research Division of the Local Government Academy Leah Marie Sanchez reported that their “center-based” projects include the Women’s Executive Course for Local Leadership, Climate Change in critical areas and better understanding of Water and Sanitation. For “national implementation”, they use the CURE (Comprehensive and Unified Response) to eliminate local government bureaucratic red tape. All of these activities can be improved by setting up the Pagsasarili Mothercraft Literacy program.

The NEC workshop participants work experience at the Mothercraft Literacy House made them reflect how their current EFA activities can be redirected in promoting better lifestyles of their disadvantaged beneficiaries in poor communities. The Mothercraft Literacy nipa house for training purposes measures 13.5 x 9.3 meters. The living room is combined with the dining room surrounded by waist-high cabinets which stores cooking utensils and dining wares. Parallel to these are the bedroom with the parents sleeping separately from the children so their privacy is respected. The kitchen and laundry areas are located outside, so are the toilet and bathroom.

Between 1984 to 1988 during the crisis of sugar planters, Mrs. Punay Kabayao Fernandez introduced me to the mayors of Cadiz and Sagay in Negros Oriental who supported the OB Montessori Pagsasarili Mothercraft Literacy projects in 14 sugar plantations. In spite of this, Australia and Canada funds sustain small enterprises of the village mothers, such as piggeries and food “carinderias” in bus stations and seaports.

Matching RA 9512 of DepEd, TESDA and CHED for ESD

RA 9512, an inter-agency policy, is a venue for the Presidential Taskforce on Education to help unify the three major education agencies. DepEd’s Basic Education Sector Reform (BESRA) of 2007-2010 is an attempt to transform preschool, elementary and high school curriculum to quality of global stature. BESRA hopes to address the continuous increase of dropouts as early as Grade I until Grade VI, who end up as adult illiterates, a phenomena already discovered by the Senate and Congress in their 1990 EDCOM survey of schools in all levels.

The transformation of the curriculum goes together with the re-engineering of teacher training courses under CHED. TESDA basically is mandated to provide technical-vocational education training only to high school graduates, but has to have provision for school leavers who hang around unemployed in communities. Few avail of the free competency assessment and certification for employment since majority who are interested have not entered secondary school.

To infuse ESD, DepEd is trying to focus on improving the quality of public preschools. Initiated by the SEACLLSD, Education Secretary Jesli Lapus funded the conversion of 25 public preschools all over Luzon in 2007. The six-week course included pre-service and on-site in-service using a van-load of Pagsasarili preschool materials.

DepEd is also trying to restore the voc-tech programs in high school. That it can be done was presented by the professional high school students of the SEACLLSD National Laboratory who have perfected the lunch and snack business in the past 26 years. They demonstrated the preparation of rice topping teriyaki chicken, and chorizo with tomatoes, as well as arroz caldo. Sold at an average of P50 each, the profit for the three dishes is approximately P1,500 daily totaling P7,500 weekly.

Man’s survival depends on understanding the cosmic organization

DENR Economist Roy Tolentino reiterated that RA 9512 – the Environmental Awareness and Education Act 2008 – is intended to have a multi-sectoral crafting of an Educational Plan for Sustainable Development with DepEd, TESDA and CHED. He observed that the SEACLLSD National Laboratory primary school children’s presentation of the Cosmic Science using charts, nomenclature cards, and maps integrating geography, history, botany, zoology into economics involve taxation and the banking system is comprehensive and ideal as an ESD science curriculum even for DENR, DA and DOST.

It is essential to develop the child’s understanding that God, the Creator took time to develop life on earth to provide our food, clothing, shelter, etc. For his Basic Needs, mankind is dependent on the Animal, Plant and Mineral Kingdoms. Thus, everyone must show gratitude and care to be able to survive in life. We must free from pollution the four blankets of Planet Earth, such as the Lithosphere (land), Hydrosphere (water), Atmosphere (air) and Biosphere to conserve life on each sphere. This is the environmental focus of ESD.

Note that the fragmented training of government agencies can be unified by the SEACLLSD “mother and child learning together” program, as well as the cosmic science curriculum to internalize the spirit of human sustainability.–Preciosa S. Soliven, Philippine Star

(For more information or reaction, please e-mail at exec@obmontessori.edu.ph or pssoliven@yahoo.com)

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