180,000 Pantawid Pamilya student-beneficiaries go back to school

A total of 181,228 student-beneficiaries of Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program have returned to school through its Bata Balik Eskwela (BBE) campaign that aims to encourage children who stopped going to school to enroll again and value education. This number is from the program’s June to August 2019 data, and more student-beneficiaries are expected to enroll again and continue their studies.

The campaign’s target student-beneficiaries are referred as “Not Attending School” (NAS) children. Pantawid Pamilya recorded 925,977 NAS children from 2018 to February 2019. To address this issue and reinforce its mandate of keeping children healthy and in school, Pantawid Pamilya launched the BBE campaign last April 2019. The campaign’s theme Edukasyon ay Mahalaga, Ito ay Ating Ipaalala’underscores the importance of education in achieving ones’ dream and breaking the poverty cycle within the household.

Among these NAS children was Sitti Norhaya Madjid from Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay who lost the drive to attend her classes when she was 15. Through the BBE campaign used as a case management strategy, Pantawid Pamilya reached out to her, assessed her situation, and informed her of the options she could take to go back to school such as enrolling to Alternative Learning System/Alternative Delivery Mode (ALS/ADM) Program.

“Isa ako sa mga pumunta noong nagkaroon ng orientation tungkol sa BBE. Doon ko nalaman na puwede pala akong mag-aral sa ALS,” Sitti shared. Last June, she enrolled to ALS program and was determined to finish her studies.

Another reason for consistently not going to school is bullying. Cassey (not her real name), from Ilocos Region, did not want to go to school anymore because her classmates teased and treated her rudely because of her misaligned lower extremities. The campaign encouraged her to go back to school, and she committed to enroll again next school year.

 “Gusto ko talagang makapagtapos dahil ito ang aking pangarap,” said Cassey.

Work, disability, early marriage, early parenthood, sibling care, and emotional unpreparedness are also some of the reasons cited for being absent or dropping out of school.

Complex issues

Pantawid Pamilya learned that school absenteeism is just a symptom of more complex gender-based child protection issues.

It was found out that boys (60%) were affected more than the girls (40%), and most of them were within 15 to 18 years old.

NAS children belong to multi-problem households that are afflicted by various social problems, like poverty, unemployment, and abuses.

Consequently, children lack support and maturity to handle their complex and difficult circumstances; often forced to work, get pregnant early or co-habit. Many of them are also in high risk situations, suffering from different forms of gender-based violence, like physical and sexual abuses.  

The campaign understands the sensitivity that these issues entail thus trained social workers and Pantawid Pamilya and DSWD staffs handle the cases of affected student-beneficiaries.

Partnerships and good practices

From municipal to regional level, Pantawid Pamilya has able to use its existing mechanisms in identifying NAS issues and gaps and collaborating with different social service workforce.

DSWD Ilocos Region involved families and other stakeholders in the campaign and was able to enroll 19,593 NAS children— a whopping 291% of the regional target—to formal school or ALS/ADM. Pantawid Pamilya City/Municipal Links collaborated with ALS teachers to help working children avail of ALS/ADM while helping provide for their families.

The regional office also developed a BBE supplemental module for beneficiaries’ Family Development Sessions and partnered with the Department of Education (DepEd) which committed to strictly implement its Child Protection Policy to address the bullying incidents and provide appropriate interventions.

Likewise, DSWD Eastern Visayas engaged children and their families in implementing the campaign, which resulted to 817 home visits, 105 case conferences, 723 focus group discussions, 97 counselling sessions, 122 information dissemination and case management sessions. These activities examined the situations of NAS children and developed intervention plans with their families.

The province of Leyte developed the Children Monitoring Tool that parents use in observing their children’s school attendance. 

Other initiatives were counselling and life skills coaching sessions, creating referral pathways to manage the psychosocial needs of NAS children; and ensuring that NAS children over 18 years old are referred to ALS or other productive options.

There was also a partnership with DepEd and the Barangay Council for the Protection of Children in promoting the campaign and with the private sector and civil society organizations to donate school supplies for back-to-school children. Through the BBE campaign, Pantawid Pamilya is not only bringing children back to school but also giving them another chance at achieving their dreams.