By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
To help address dropout rates and improve grades of learners, Vice President Leni Robredo underscored the need for facilities that would make education more accessible to for learners who live far away from their respective schools.
Robredo recently led the turnover of a girls’ dormitory for Matarinao School of Fisheries in Salcedo, Eastern Samar. The dormitory will cater to 21 female students who would spend hours traveling to school every day, some of them by foot.
The Matarinao School of Fisheries is a technical-vocational school and the only secondary fishery school in the entire province of Eastern Samar. Currently, the school has an estimated 400 Junior and Senior High School students. The school is a service-oriented institution which aims to provide accessible and quality technical vocational livelihood training to students.
Barangay Matarinao, where the school is located, is a remote area found at the last tip portion of Salcedo facing the Pacific Ocean found along the seashore side of Matarinao Bay.
The students from the different barangays within the 16- kilometer radius from Matarinao are very much interested in the fishery courses offered since most of the people are living in the pacific and coastal areas. However, due to the school’s distance from the students’ homes, there has been an increase in the dropout rate in the last school year.
A year after the groundbreaking, Robredo led the turn-over of the “Angat Buhay” Dormitory for girls, which will provide shelter to the students from other barangays who sacrifice to walk 6 kilometers daily just to be in school.
Robredo also led the turnover of a dormitory to Balangkayan Senior High School and Balangkayan National High School which both face the challenge of school accessibility. Last August 2018, she led the groundbreaking of the dormitory site together with Gov. Ben Evardone and Mayor Allan Contado. The dormitory (worth P 1,500,000.00) is part of the locally-funded projects of OVP.
“Kausap ko nga iyong mga bata, parang iyong range dito, pinakamalapit na bahay, six kilometers away, mga more than an hour daw iyong lakad nila pero iyong pinakamalayo, 12 [kilometers],” Robredo said in an interview. “Ang problema, ano siya, kapag malayo masyado iyong bahay, tapos walang means iyong family, ang iba humihinto na lang ng pag-aaral kasi gaya ng mga 12 kilometers away, sabi nila 150 pesos a day ang pamasahe. So tinitiyagaan na lang nila iyong ilang oras na lakad,” she added.
After a year of construction, Robredo turned over the dormitory to Balangkayan NHS and SHS which will accommodate 16 female dormers from different far-flung barangays in the municipality. The project hopes to decrease the absenteeism rate and eventually increase the participation rate of the students.
During the turnover, Robredo also met the students who would be occupying the dormitory and reminded them to study hard. “Sinabi ko lang na mag-aral sila nang mabuti tapos siyempre masusukat namin kung successful iyong project na ito kapag nag-improve talaga iyong dropout rates saka kapag nag-improve iyong grades nila kasi kapag hindi nag-improve, failure iyong proyekto,” she said.
The Office of the Vice President (OVP) has similar projects in Siayan, Zamboanga del Norte; Sumilao, Bukidnon. She noted that in the other dorms turned over earlier, there was a “very dramatic” improvement in school attendance and grades of learners.
“So hopefully, itong sa Balangkayan ganoon din, kasi kapag nakita natin na marked iyong improvement, magpapatayo tayo ng boys’ dorm,” she said. “Kailangan lang i-secure, kasi siyempre primordial pa din iyong safety ng mga bata so iyon iyong kailangan nating asikasuhin,” she added.
Earlier that day, Robredo led the awarding of bridging leadership plaque and check to local government unit (LGU) of Gandara under the “Angat Buhay” Bridging Leadership Program. In an effort to create sustainable and collaborative initiatives that the office started in 2016, the OVP partnered with SEAOIL Foundation, Inc. to develop and implement a leadership and fellowship program entitled “Angat Buhay Bridging Leadership (BL) Program”. The training was patterned after the Bridging Leadership (BL) framework, in line with the Vice President’s leadership values of being immersed, engaged and results-driven.
“Ito iyong mga hinahanap natin: iyong nandoon na iyong skill, kailangan na lang i-improve nandoon na iyong desire o kaalaman, pero walang masyadong capitalization,” Robredo said. “So iyong binigay namin ngayon sa LGU, ito iyong additional capitalization para doon sa mga cheese-makers ng keso,” she added.
The BL framework seeks to deepen the local leaders’ ownership of critical issues in the community and give them a better understanding of their situation. Identifying critical stakeholders, defining social constructs that impede growth and employing a systems-wide approach are part of the BL framework. Through these, it is envisioned that leaders will gain a renewed sense of purpose in empowering their constituents, especially those who live in the margins.