SHE asked the parents and 25 fourth year students if they knew what IT or information technology is. An indistinguishable murmur was heard somewhere in the classroom.
She asked if they knew what a network is or what hardware is. I looked at the parents and their expressions told me that the only network and hardware they could imagine was the barangay intelligence network and the hardware where they buy nails and light bulbs.
Cecile Tan, a 21-year-old French girl with Cambodian roots, was telling them about a full scholarship in a three-year diploma course on IT being offered by the French NGO Passerelles Numeriques. Although she spoke in simple and clear English, what she said had to be translated to Bisaya by Lorenzo Niñal, the young man venerated by everyone at the Lut-od National High School in Pinamungahan, Cebu.
Because even if they said yes when Cecile asked them “You understand everything?”, it was likely they meant no. Eager to send their children to college under the benevolence of Passarelles Numeriques, they often said yes to her questions. Their children are graduating scholars of Lorenzo’s Tsinelas organization and were about to take the three-hour Passerelles Numeriques qualifying exams.
Only a handful of the graduates of Lut-od National High School ever go to college. The ones who do, often taking up education, are remembered with pride by the teachers.
To most of the students here, a full high school education assures them of jobs as factory workers in the city. Dropping out means leading a life no different from their parents’, harsh and hapless.
The teachers told me that if I had looked inside the bags of the students, I would have found a sack and a bolo. Children of farmers, the students forage for their carabaos on their way home. At times, they drop by the deep well station to fetch the water-filled jars they had deposited there on their way to school.
Upon my arrival, I thought I was in an elementary school until I heard Lorenzo and Cecile talking about the college entrance exams that Cecile was to administer that day. In Lut-od, age and size do not match and young students have toned arms and legs. Here, poundage does not come in excess but children do.
The students were quizzed on logic, English and math. The questions were hard, they told their nervous mothers during a break.
The mothers knew better than to console them with suggestions of possible answers to the questions. They had barely understood Cecile’s Powerpoint presentation. I felt the anguish and hope of the mothers. I wish Inday would make it. I wish Dodong would make it.
If Dodong or Inday qualifies, he or she gets a full IT scholarship at the University of San Carlos in Talamban, free board and lodging at the Passerelles Numeriques center and free uniform (but not the shoes).
On their end, the parents commit P500 a month to the sponsor, take care of the personal needs of their child and provide transportation fare for going home during school breaks. Lorenzo told them not to worry about the P500, which is quite a fortune to a family that subsists on root crops. The more immediate concern was for their child to pass the exam, he said.
From the looks on the faces of the Tsinelas scholars after the exams, I knew I would have to hang on to blind faith in the probability that five of 50 or so graduates of Lut-od National High School go to college and that of the five, one gets an IT scholarship.