In most rural areas, at least 8 to 10 out of 30 high school graduates continue their college education. Most of them chooses to become farmers, start working for their families, or some decide to build a family of their own. This is one sad reality being faced by the youth in Sta. Ines, Tanay, Rizal. The village seems to be out of the world’s best opportunity for the young people thought it is just a few hours away from Metro Manila. Although it is very near to the metro’s civilization, a student needs to cross 9 rivers just to attend classes. Imagine the danger and sacrifices these students are enduring just for the sake of learning.
Sta. Ines elementary school has 260 pupils, 40 of which come from a minority indigenous tribe called Dumagats. The Dumagats are among the first settlers of the Philippines whose roots can be traced to the Aetas. These semi-nomadic people are also known to be sea-gypsies. They live in a very beautiful area which can be considered as one of the most beautiful places to see in the Philippines.
The beauty of their place may be considered a paradise for others, however, it may also be considered as an obstacle to learning for the people living in the area.
It is just a blessing to the local community that the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act of 1997 has been passed. That gave a chance to the elementary school in Sta. Ines to have satellite classrooms which benefits the Dumagat community. With the help of the Department of Education, a customized curriculum has been created for the benefit of the tribe’s children. With the leadership of the principal of Sta. Ines elementary school, the teachers were tasked to learn the Dumagat dialect in order to break the language barrier for the Dumagats to learn lessons effectively.
We can’t do it alone. We need stakeholders who can help us empower the children and show them that it is possible to graduate from the school and accomplish anything they want.
Adoracion Valdez, Sta. Ines Elementary School Principal
Mrs. Valdez, the seventh of 10 children, said her parents had always motivated her. Despite being simple farmers, they struggled to be able to send all their children to school. “That gift is immeasurable”, she said. “My parents believed that education is the only inheritance they could give us.”
This belief is shared by 13-year-old Elizabeth Laurio, a sixth-grade student at the Sta. Ines Elementary School, who upon her mother’s untimely death last year, had to step up to become a “mother” to her five younger siblings. Many times, Elizabeth had to absent herself from school to look after the children at home.
Elizabeth lets circumstances surrounding her motivate her, even more, to continue her studies and fulfill the dream of becoming a teacher to help her family and many more children in her village break out of the cycle of poverty.
“Dreams are free”, she said in Filipino. “So I will hold tight to my dream.”
There are a lot of organizations that are willing to give and help the people whose situation are the same as of those in the are of Sta. Ines, Tanay, Rizal. MoneyGram for example. MoneyGram, through its MoneyGram Foundation, has donated P1 million to the Black Pencil Project.
The Black Pencil Project, a civilian volunteer organization helping to promote primary education and welfare to remote and indigenous Philippine communities to promote children’s primary education and welfare.
MoneyGram Foundation’s mission is firmly rooted in the belief that education is the key to better economic opportunities, healthier families, individual freedom, and empowerment.
This is our way of reaching out to our brothers from the marginalized communities to let them know they are not alone in reaching their dreams.
Alex Lim, MoneyGram Philippine country manager
MoneyGram’s donation will benefit at least six barrio schools and provide at least 2,500 students from kindergarten to grade six with prescribed pencils, writing pads, notebooks, and art materials.
Aside from Sta. Ines, MoneyGram will provide supplies to other tribes from other locations such as to the Ivatans and Ifugaos of Banawe from Cambulo Elementary School, the Dumagats of Rizal from Casili Elementary School, and the Aetas of Tarlac from Labney Elementary school in Mayantoc Tarlac. Other communities that will benefit from this donation include the Ivatans of Batanes from Sabtang Central Elementary School, the Palawanons of Palawan from Cagayan Elementary School, and the Mangyans of Mindoro from Sablayan Elementary School.
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