NOT everyone is aware of the alarming 57 percent drop out rate among junior public high school students in the Philippines, which means thousands of them will have a hard time breaking free from the cycle of poverty.
KA.T.ON hopes to change that.
With KA.T.ON, students from public schools can find inspiration and interest in their studies, helping them graduate from high school, and hopefully, college. KA.T.ON is a junior public high school tutorial program with entrepreneurship exposure that has been motivating junior high school students from public schools to keep learning in school.
Organizers of the program derive their name from the combination of two Cebuano terms ‘’Kaon,’’ which means to eat, and “Tuon,” which means to study. Combined, they form the word “Kat-on,” meaning to learn.
The program is currently offered in five barangays—Luz, Guadalupe and Cogon Ramos in Cebu City, and Barangay Centro in Mandaue City.
In every barangay, there are eight volunteer tutors who handle 40 beneficiaries. One tutor will be assigned to five tutees only to allow the tutors to focus on the individual learning needs of the tutees.
Among KA.T.ON’s tutees is eighth grader Ronel Lambayong. “Math is difficult when you don’t understand the problem and you don’t know the formula. They made me master the formula and gave me problems to solve. I am also very happy that I was able to join a Math competition. When I told KA.T.ON about this, they did not leave me alone. They helped me until the competition by giving me practice exercises to solve,” he shared.
Monica Enriquez, chief executive officer of Barangay Impact in Visayas, the group behind KA.T.ON, emphasized that holistic values are equally important in creating a positive learning environment and letting students learn academics.
Students, especially those from the lower socio-economic group, face many struggles and challenges just to stay in school. The lack of money for fare and school needs and the need to help the family earn a living are some of the reasons students stop going to school. Another pervasive problem that lead students to lose interest in going to school is the addiction to online gaming.
This is how the Barangay Impact Management and Support Services Corp. came up with the idea to utilize the food business to divert the students’ attention from online gaming, through the KA.T.ON SioHiongPao (siomai, ngohiong and siopao). There are four KA.T.ON SioHiongPao kiosks in the barangay to make sure the 40 beneficiaries can be accommodated.
The kiosk serves as a venue for the students to be exposed to entrepreneurship. These kiosks will be the community sale distribution outlet for the food products, with 25 percent of the sales going to the program. This is done twice a week on a two-hour session after class. The students get an incentive of P60 per week to make sure they participate in the program, which they can also use for their school needs.
The tutorial sessions are for free and are conducted every Saturday morning, while the homework assistance is every Wednesday evening. The sessions are held in a venue provided by the partner barangay, while the school materials are provided by KA.T.ON.
Louise Mendoza, a graduate of B.S Education Major in Math and Physics and also a volunteer for six grading periods, expressed her gratitude to KA.T.ON. “Whenever they say, ‘Ate Louise, I got high scores in my English test. Ate Louise, I already passed my exam when I couldn’t pass before…’ it gives me a sense of fulfillment. As my KA.T.ON mentors have always told me, passion is everything. It gives you the fuel, that inspiration to go on with life. I’m very blessed to be part of KA.T.ON. My one-year stay has really made an impact, not only on the students, but also on me. It has been part of my personal growth. and I’ll be forever grateful to KA.T.ON,” she said.
The volunteers also undergo training to create a positive learning environment for the tutees. They participate in a mandatory impact tutor certification workshop prior to receiving their assignments in the barangay. The workshop will equip the volunteers with the tutoring skills on the subject matter and enables them to interact more effectively with the tutees.
People searching for ways to contribute to change can join as a KA.T.ON volunteer tutor or by simply buying from the Kat.On SioHiongPao products.