Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Barking Up The Wrong Tree

Education is suppose to be a right and not a privilege. It is every parent's dream to see his children finish school. A bill filed by Rep. Rufus Rodriguez aims make liable, parents who fail to send their children to school. The law in itself is laudable and should be passed. Education Secretary, Jesli Lapus is also pushing for the passing of this bill. He adds that children should be in school and that poverty is not an excuse.

While I agree philosophically, the reality is that the high dropout rate is a consequence of the government's ineptitude. Public education is indeed free in the primary and secondary levels but there are hidden expenses that Lapus and Rodriguez should consider as well. Poverty plays a humongous role in education. Infrastructure and accessibility are other factors to consider too.

It is so easy to put the blame on parents and not the government. If this bill is passed, then Gloria should be charged as well. The government has a program of putting 15 year olds to work. Isn't this espousing child labor as well? With GMA's computation of squeezing in kids in a cramped classroom, what kind of education will the children be getting? The government cannot even provide textbooks and other materials to allow for genuine education. Despite pouring billions in our education system, the lack of educators continue to plague the system.

Schools are also far from some communities that kids as young as six have to walk for hours just to get to school. Some schools even conduct mixed-grade classes. This further compounds the problem of learning. The rising cost of living and lack of opportunities add to the woes of parents. It has been reported that a family of five must earn a daily income of P842/day to live decently. With the low wages, even the middle class is having a hard time to make ends meet.

Corruption and misuse of government resources is one of the biggest problems we face. Congress and the other government agencies throw away billions in projects we do not need. While there are legislators who do pour their pork barrels in education, a bigger number of them do not. The government relies heavily on the private sector in the name of corporate responsibility to its job. NGOs both foreign and local have also been immersed in programs to help the education system in the country.

But Gloria and her gang has this penchant to redirect blame on others. They cover up their crimes by diverting attention away from them. Now it's the parents who must suffer because of their indiscretions. I am sure the kids would not be forced to stop schooling if their parents have decent jobs or an opportunity to earn decently.

Government must also push for a genuine family planning program. It lacks political will to undergo such a deviation from the norm and is so afraid of losing the church's support. Perhaps the government should focus more on this before pointing fingers. The government should also make accountable those among its ranks continue to steal from the nation's coffers. Rodriguez and those like him perhaps do not feel the economic pinch the country is in. Congressmen have huge allowances and pork barrel that they allocate improperly. Some of our politicians also have numerous "families" to feed and wives to please which of course results to corruption.

Public education may have been good in the past, but not today. With tuition fees in private schools increasing every year, many of those who cannot cope transfer their kids to public schools. This in turn eases out those in the lower rungs of society. Had Gloria concentrated on specific institutions instead of spreading our resources thinly, we wouldn't be in this situation. She should have allocated an entire year's budget on one institution per year and perhaps development in these institutions could have been adequate.

I hope that all concerned agencies would conduct further research before passing this bill. Parents I know should be made responsible but we must weigh in all the factors. We also must first make accountable those whose corrupt practices have led to the hard life Filipinos are in. Education is fast becoming a privilege than a right. Bark if you must but please bite the right people.