|Empty Stomach vs More Classrooms|
|News Features - Success Stories|
|Written by 4Ps Social Marketing Unit|
|Monday, 20 February 2012 08:43|
For Montessa Gonzales, 12-year old student beneficiary of Pantawid Pamilya from Bien Unido, Bohol, a full stomach is important for her school performance.
“Sigurado ko nga mas mu-taas akong grado kay maka-eskwela naman ko nga nakakaon ug kumpleto sa gamit mau nga makatuon ko ug sakto. Kabalo pud ko nga di mi pasagdan sa gobyerno kay nakita na ni nako sa Pantawid Pamilya,” she enthused.
While the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) supports the opinion of former Senator Ernesto Maceda in his Search for Truth article on February 2, 2012, that sufficient budget should be allocated for more teachers, new classrooms, more nurses and medical equipment, DSWD maintains that the budget for Pantawid Pamilya must not be re-channeled to direct social services. Poor families such as Montessa’s need cash to supplement the free social services of the government. They need cash assistance to be able to buy healthy foods and purchase basic school needs for the immediate relief of hunger and poverty.
Gaps in supply side requirements though are being addressed thru a technical working group with inter-agency membership chaired by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM). It was formed to assist the local government units in accessing resources for them to upgrade the basic health and education facilities and address the supply gaps of municipalities/cities. This year, the government will invest 238 billion in basic education to build 45, 000 classrooms. In terms of public health, the government targets to subsidize the health insurance program of the poor and indigent households. About 5.2 million households will be enrolled in the PhilHealth.
Health and education are two of the basic rights of children which Pantawid Pamilya supports. However, many poor families have no means to provide for the daily basic needs of their children much less the resources for their school projects, basic school needs and daily allowance.
Most children are determined enough to walk under the scorching heat of the sun or relentless rain such as Mea Fe Nalangan just so she can go to school. Every day she wakes up at four in the morning to prepare for school. She walks for more than one hour to reach Calacabian Elementary School in Libacao, Aklan. Mea Fe’s mother, Mercedes, describes her daughter’s everyday routine as something the girl has gotten used to. “May single na motorcycle na pwedeng arkilahin pero kinse pesos ang pamasahe. Mabigat ‘yun sa amin. Dati madalas na pumapasok sina Mea Fe at kanyang mga kapatid na walang kahit sentimo sa kanilang bulsa. Nagbabaon lang sila ng talbos ng kamote at kanin para sa pananghalian,” said 42-year-old Mercedes.
This is only one of the grueling challenges that poor children are enduring in order to go to school. The existence of free social services is not enough to meet the basic needs of poor families. The direct cash assistance from the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program which serves to subsidize the educational and nutritional needs of poor children has allowed millions of poor families to send their children to school. Many poor children have also become more inspired to excel in their studies which show their inherent determination to improve their plight in life
Both Mea Fe and Montessa are consistent academic achievers. The former graduated valedictorian while Montessa garnered first honorable mention. The two bright children are testaments that the skills and intellect of poor children could be further harnessed and maximized through direct cash assistance from the government. Many children go to school with a hungry stomach which renders their effort futile. Thus, the assistance provided by the program is necessary to supplement sufficient facilities and manpower for basic services.
Rannie Mendua, a 2nd year high school student from San Narciso Vocational High School in San Narciso, Quezon attests, “Isang malaking pagkakataon ang mapabilang kami sa benepisyaryo ng Pantawid Pamilya, malaking tulong ito sa aking pag-aaral. Noon ako po ay laging namomoroblema lalo na kung may mga proyekto sa paaralan. Madalas din na hindi ako nakakakain ng maayos. Nahihiya akong humingi sa aking mga magulang dahil alam kong nahihirapan din sila. Nagpapasalamat po kami may Pantawid na tumutulong sa amin para makatapos ng aming pag-aara at matustusan ang aming mga pangunahing pangangailangan."
For most parents, the children are their priority. Thus, the DSWD continuously improves to deliver better services so that children are not deprived of their rights. Through convergent efforts of the government and all sectors, the assistance being provided by the Pantawid Pamilya is showing positive results. The most recent result of the compliance rate of beneficiaries indicate that almost 97% pregnant women and 0-5 children get regular health checks and 97.24% school-age children go to school 85% of the time. This reflects the success of the program in teaching the poor the habits that will help alleviate them from poverty. The beneficiaries’ heightened sense of responsibility is essential for them to gradually improve their plight in life.