MANILA (AsiaNews) - About 6 million Filipino children of school going age drop out of school altogether. This is the data that has emerged from a study carried out by the Department of Education in Manila. 30% of the 91 million inhabitants of the country are under 18: almost 25% of them never finish their studies. Poverty is largely to blame, but also the lack of awareness among the population of the importance of education.
Bishop Honesto Ongtioco, Bishop of Cubao, tells AsiaNews that "parents should realize the value of education in the lives of children and also make the necessary sacrifices to ensure their access to it".
The Church of the Philippines, through the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP), has been active in efforts to "motivate" parents to ensure at least basic education to children. This year, Caritas Manila has allocated 8 thousand scholarships for the current school year and all the parishes in the country were invited to support young people who for various reasons might not finish school.
Bishop Ongtioco acknowledges that the problem is so vast as to require new and continued efforts. 2.5% of GDP (gross domestic product) devoted to education is not enough despite the fact that education is free in the Philippines. The Bishop of Cubao is certain that the education of young people "is the backbone of development of the nation" and therefore is calling on all civil society organizations to work towards improving access to education and training.
Often problems associated with poverty result in children dropping out of school: the poor health of a parent, illness or physical disabilities and a lack of adequate assistance, the need to help the family economy.
Among the initiatives to combat the phenomenon of school drop outs is a governmental plan Open High School Program (OHSP), also called Distance Education Program. Activated in the context of the Drop Out Reduction Program (DROP) launched in 1998, it allows students to receive basic training even if unable to attend school.
The boys are followed by teachers that provide them with training at a distance. Young people receive lessons and tasks to do at home and a program of schooling suited to their abilities.
Since DROP began to take hold in the country, the phenomenon in secondary schools have seen a dramatic decrease, from 12.51% during the year 2005/2006 to 7.45% of 2007/2008.