I AM currently studying the problems encountered and coping mechanisms of student-mothers in the division of Baguio City. These students usually stop attending regular schools because of the demand of child-rearing. To help them finish their studies, the Department of Education (DepEd) introduced the Alternative Learning System (ALS) reducing the school time to fit the learners’ lifestyle. There is also the Open High School Program (OHSP), a branch of ALS, which is more of modular-type of learning which these mothers can enroll into just for them to complete high school. Despite these programs, I learned that these young student-mothers still face daunting challenges.
Being both a student and a mother is demanding according to them. Most of them find it difficult to complete and submit their school requirements. Difficulty of the task is not so much of a concern but the lack of time of doing these activities tends to be the main problem. Once they arrive at home from school, they become full time baby-sitters. If they have spare time they help in household chores. More often they have to find time to help. At night, they could not sleep until the baby soundly fall to sleep. The babies often wake up at night for many reasons, mainly due to hunger or discomfort. The young mothers have to wake up, tend to their needs, and wait for them to go back to sleep then they try to get the slumber back When they try to do their activities at night, the toddlers oftentimes interfere so they are forced to stop.
Since they lack sleep, they usually wake up late. Many of them have to endure the admonishment from some teachers when they enter the first subject late. When they try to reason out, some teachers would understand. Sadly, it is not always the case. They often seek for understanding but it is not always given. They try to accomplish their requirements in school. That means they do not have sufficient time to do it so they rush. The quality of the output is often compromised and their grades are adversely affected. One of them also narrated that she is not allowed to join group activities after school hours or outside school days because her mother does not trust her anymore. The group mates would not understand as well so she is usually dropped out from the group. When there is no one to take care of the babies they have no recourse but to get absent. Perhaps I see now why many of them have low grades.
At home, life is not easy too. They have to devote their whole time taking care of the babies. This baby-sitting is not taken as negative though because most of them find strength in spending time with their babies. The only thing is they get tired but they are not allowed to say they are exhausted because they are the mothers. Most of them rely financially on their partners or parents so they cannot usually complain when being asked to work in the house. Some have sideline jobs but the pay is so low that it is never enough to supply the babies’ needs. Other are staying in their partners’ family. This, many admit, is one of the stressful aspects of being a young mother living in a different house.
“It is like you are always being watched. Sometimes you hear something negative from the other family.” They need to endure. They need to finish their studies as way of getting out from this situation.
Judging them, they said, is the worst thing they experience as young mothers. Family members and other people would tell they are flirts (malandi). Their families show their disappointment and often they become the subject of sermons and models of disobedience. They would hear hurtful words in the streets. “If I cannot take it anymore, I just stop go on a corner and cry silently,” confessed one. Also, it is like an unforgivable sin when they go out alone. “People would think that we are going to the bar, go out with friends, or have some fun.” They say that people do not always think that they have to go out alone because of some important matters like attending a meeting or going to school. For them, they are already marked and it is hard to remove this mark from the judging eyes of the society.
I have yet to finish this study but I already learned a lot. I hoped too that this will be published in the division’s research paper so that other people can be informed too. My interviews with the young mothers apparently opened my eyes. Oftentimes, it is easier to blame or to judge than to help or support them. They, who are always in the hot seat. They need to learn from their experiences, if it is a mistake, I can’t tell, and to do this, we have to give them a chance.