4Ps removes barriers to education

Born with a congenital deformity, Edy Rose Tayab of Quezon, Bukidnon was teased and bullied by her classmates because she has no feet and left hand. Going to school was physically and emotionally difficult for her, but other than the dispiriting remarks about her disability, Edy Rose was more discouraged to go to school because of the effects of poverty to her family.

“May adlaw ko nga walay balon sauna” (There were days that I did not have money to buy food in school), Edy Rose, 21, describing her condition before her family became a Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) beneficiary. It was a challenging time for them that her family could hardly address their needs and send her to school.

The aid Edy Rose’s family received from 4Ps was a great help to alleviate their circumstances, as it enabled her to go to school. She finished high school in 2015, and was among the 200,000 student-beneficiaries of the first batch of 4Ps high school graduates. She was top 9 of her class and was determined to go to college.

“I wanted to prove myself that I can do what normal people can do,” she said.

Sahanudin Benito Pumbaya of Kapatagan, Lanao del Sur, also has a similar story. His family used to be a 4Ps beneficiary. Saha, as he is fondly called by family members and friends, had an accident when he was still a toddler, which affected the growth of his leg bones limiting his mobility. He also experienced being ridiculed for his condition. But instead of letting these challenges affect him, he made them his motivations to improve the other aspects of his life.

The stories of Edy Rose and Saha prove that, sometimes, disability is not the biggest hindrance in achieving one’s dreams but the lack of opportunities to do so.

4Ps was designed to change circumstances of students like Edy Rose and Saha. It is an investment in human capital which seeks to break the intergenerational cycle of poverty by focusing on education and health of the beneficiaries. It uses the conditional cash transfer scheme to provide cash grants to the beneficiaries who comply with the program conditionalities which are: children 3 to 18 years old must be enrolled in kindergarten, elementary, and high school, and attend classes at least 85% of the time each month; children 0-5 years old must receive regular preventive health check-ups, growth monitoring, and vaccines; pregnant women get pre and post-natal care (must be attended by skilled/professional health workers); children in elementary must receive de-worming pills twice a year; and attendance of the grantee/parent/guardian to the monthly Family Development Sessions (FDS).

With the cash grants, 4Ps helps remove barriers that prevent children from going to school, like lack of food and transportation allowance, lack of budget for projects, and poor health conditions, among others.

In addition to the cash grants given to compliant beneficiaries, 4Ps partners with other government agencies that can provide opportunities for social development, like tertiary education.

Chance to get college education

One such partnership is with the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) through the Expanded Student Grant-in-Aid Program for Poverty Alleviation (ESGPPA), a college education program for 4Ps beneficiaries.

Launched in 2012, ESGPPA provides opportunities to 4Ps households who have children who are determined to pursue a college education. It initially covered 4,000 grantees, and later was expanded to cover 36,000 beneficiaries.

With the implementation of Republic Act 10931 or the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act, ESGPPA has been transferred to CHED’s Unified Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education Act, or UniFAST. ESGPPA grantees under the Tertiary Education Subsidy receive stipend for room and board costs, books, school supplies, miscellaneous personal expenses like rental or purchase of personal computer or laptop, and other education-related expenses.

According to the data of 4Ps and CHED, ESGPPA has produced more than 30,000 graduates nationwide for the academic year 2015 to 2016. For academic year 2018 to 2019, there were 13,000 enrollees.

It was through ESGPPA that Edy Rose and Saha were able to enroll in college and earned their respective bachelor’s degree.

Edy Rose was among the ESGPPA graduates in July 2019, completing a bachelor’s degree in Agribusiness Management at the Central Mindanao University. Indeed, Edy Rose did not let her condition and people’s judgment steal her dream. Instead, she persevered because she believes that, “There’s no elevator to success. You need to take up the stairs.”

For his part, Saha went to Mindanao State University-Maguindanao campus, where he earned his degree in Bachelor of Science in Public Administration in 2016.

Saha, is now an employee at DSWD-Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao as an information desk officer. He continues living his dreams as he pursues a post-graduate degree.