Cebu’s mobile school shut down for lack of funds

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Wednesday, January 8, 2014


CEBU -- For 19 years, two beat-up Kaohsiung buses would go around Cebu City’s slum areas every morning to pick up school-aged children while their parents are out making a living.

For some 300 kids, the buses were not only a means of transportation, they also offered them an opportunity to learn and be in school despite their circumstances.

The buses served as a classroom for some 300 to 350 children every year, where they get free meals, school supplies, books and uniforms.

Through the Mobile School project of the Cebu City Task Force on Street Children (CCTFSC), children from depressed communities who cannot afford to go to public day care centers or elementary schools get a chance at education.

This year, however, the buses will no longer be seen in the city’s streets.

“We tried to keep it going for so long but because our funds are running low, we could no longer sustain it. We had to stop the program end of October last year kay dili na gyud kaya sa among funds,” said Redentor Betito of the CCTFSC.

Financial woes

The Mobile School program is the first program for children that was cut short after financial woes hounded the Children of Cebu Foundation Inc. (CCFI).

CCFI helps secure funds from foreign agencies and donors to support programs and projects of the task force.

For 18 months before the Mobile School stopped operating, its eight teachers and one social worker agreed to receive a monthly salary of only P5,000 instead of the P12,000 they are supposed to get.

But the task force could no longer afford even a fraction of their salary.

Day care centers

Without the Mobile School, the parents have been forced to send their children to the barangay day care centers and public schools, where food and school supplies are not given for free.

Social worker Jesabel Tabares misses getting on the bus and helping the children they pick from communities inside cemeteries and coastal areas, or the children of vendors who are happy to send off their kids so they can go downtown and sell their goods.

She rode the bus with the children five days a week for five years, along with the teachers, two drivers and a cook.

After rounding up the children, the bus would stop at a vacant lot at the Cebu Business Park, where tables and chairs are unloaded so classes can start.

Tabares said she was saddened by the decision to shut down the Mobile School, especially since they served the “poorest of the poor” children who needed their service the most.

Graduates

For Tabares, the most memorable and fulfilling part of her job is seeing the children graduate at the end of each school year.

“When you see the children go up the stage to get their diploma, I could sense that despite their circumstances, they have hopes to change their situation. It was always heart-warming to see them waving to me while holding their diploma,” she told Sun.Star Cebu.

The staff of the Mobile School did not just help provide education to the children. In some instances, they also helped rescue children who were abused by their parents and brought them to temporary shelters.

At the office of CCFI and the CCTFSC, Betito remains hopeful that funds will trickle in again and sustain their other programs and projects.

To help raise funds, Betito is asking office and business owners to allow CCFI to place coin banks in their establishments where the public can drop donations for the task force and the foundation.

Betito said that coin donations may not be enough to fund their operations, but they will go a long way in helping children in disadvantaged situations. (Sun.Star Cebu)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on January 08, 2014.

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