A good taste, thirst for knowledge

TIME and time again, education has been said to be the answer to most of the problems the Philippines is facing. However, even at the edge of Asean Integration, the educational system of our country continues to face the same obstacles. Overcrowded rooms, inadequate number of teachers and facilities that aren’t up to date are still a common sight in public schools.

In a study by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies on the reasons for dropping out, it was found that the high cost of education is only at 29 percent and the most consequential reason at 44 percent is the lack of interest in the subjects that result in poor grades which in turn also affect the students’ interest.

With the vision of addressing the pervading problem of dropouts, the Barangay Impact Management and Support Services Corporation was born in 2015 and in January 2016 it started to implement the specially designed Barangay Junior Public High School Tutorial Program with Entrepreneurship Exposure entitled KA.T.ON (Kaon + Tuon). The main objective of this initiative is to motivate junior high school students from public schools in their studies, to increase their chances of staying in school and completing their secondary education.

The organization has focused its efforts especially to tutor Junior Public High School students because of the alarming percentage of dropout rates among those in Grades 7 to 10. The organization first implemented a pilot run of the tutorial in Barangay Luz in 2016. Running it for over a year already, the program has proven to be quite effective affecting the turnout rates of students in Barangay Luz. For this year, the organization has announced its partnership with four more barangays: Brgy. Guadalupe, Brgy. Apas, Brgy. Centro Mandaue and Brgy. Cogon. In the following months the organization has taken the goal of propagating the program to over 42,000 barangays all over the Philippines.

Unlike many other initiatives conducted to further education, the organization has made sure that the program will be self-sustaining in a sense that it survives even without any donations or grants from the government.

“It’s not that we chose not to accept (grants or donations), it’s just that by the time we built KA.T.ON the reality was because of the so many controversies that were wrapping around our country in terms of funding especially during the big Napoles scandal and then it was followed with Haiyan, the benefactors actually lost interest in the Philippines. The problem is too big for us to grapple against other big established non-government organizations but because of the urgency of the problem, we needed to be able to find a way to sustain it, and so we had to rely on corporate partners and to do that means developing a business platform,” said Barangay Impact Visayas chairperson and chief executive officer Monica Alipe-Enriquez.

The business platform sustaining the organization rests in the food business: the KA.T.ON SioHiongPao (siomai, ngohiong and siopao) with employees and business partners made to understand the importance of the project as they sponsor a greater part of the sales of these products. The products are also available for sale to the community in the KA.T.ON kiosks in the partner barangay. This is reflected in the name itself which is KA.T.ON or Kaon (to eat) and Tuon (to study) which results in another Bisaya term kat-on (to learn) with the saying “kada kaon, dunay makat-on” which translates to “every time someone eats, someone gets to study.”

At the moment, the program is calling on volunteers who wish to add to the growing number of tutors for the program.
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