TALISAY City's school officials are searching for at least 603 children who were in school last year, but haven’t enrolled again this year.
“It’s either they transferred to another school, were retained in their previous grade level or they quit school entirely,” said Dr. Woodrow Denuyo, Talisay City Schools Division superintendent.
Dr. Denuyo said he was shocked by the observation that Talisay City has the most number of school-age children who aren’t in school, at least in the first district of Cebu Province.
At least 744 school-age children in Talisay City have not completed any grade level, according to a report by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in Central Visayas.
But the challenge isn’t in Talisay alone.
In the top five cities where the problem is worst in Central Visayas, there are 6,960 children who haven’t completed any grade level; who should be in school but are not.
More than 4,000 of them are in three cities in Cebu: Cebu City (1,800 children), Lapu-Lapu City (1,344) and Toledo City (1,099).
It seems to be a common problem among cities. Based on a survey conducted by DSWD-Central Visayas last July 2011, the cities of Talisay, Carcar and Naga topped the list of communities in the first district with the most number of children who have never completed a grade level.
Kerwin Macopia, of DSWD-Central Visayas' Listahanan or the National Household Targeting System for Poverty Reduction (NHTS-PR), said that based on their survey, 3,033 residents from the first district of Cebu have no access to education.
The agency used the Proxy Means Test (PMT) for persons 6 to 25 years old who did not complete any grade level. (In the region, the total figure is 41,634.)
In the first district, Carcar City has 706 persons who have had no access to education; the city of Naga has 595.
The report showed that majority of poor individuals with no grade level completed live in Cebu Province, where they number at least 22,524.
Negros Oriental came in second with 12,392, Bohol Province with 6,327 and Siquijor with 391.
Some temporarily gained access to education but could not complete it because they couldn’t afford to do so.
Based on DSWD's data, some 96,937 poor individuals finished elementary school, while about 89,995 others completed high school.
At least 1,219 individuals finished college despite their poverty.
Public schools played an important role. Macopia revealed that more than half or about 58 percent of the poor individuals ages 6 to 25 who completed schooling attended public schools.
But 41 percent of poor individuals in the region were not able to attend school at all, because of poverty.
“Other poor families would prefer their children to work and help them augment the income of their family,” Macopia added.
Dr. Denuyo, head of the Talisay City Schools Division, said his office has been working hard to bring school-age children to school. Almost all the 22 barangays in the city have public schools at all levels.
Before the opening of the new school year, Denuyo added, he had ordered all principals to conduct a house-to-house campaign to urge parents to send their children to school. The campaign was part of the Department of Education’s (DepEd) Balik Eskwela program.
In the City of Naga, Cebu Mayor Valdemar Chiong said he wants to coordinate with DSWD regarding the statistics they provided.
Like Denuyo, Chiong was surprised by the revelation that his city ranked third with the most number of school-age children who have no access to education.
“Majority of the city’s 28 barangays not only have public elementary and high schools, but also daycare centers,” Chiong told Sun.Star Cebu.
Carcar City Mayor Nicepuro Apura said it was the first time he heard of DSWD’s report.
Apura said that access to education in his city has been improving, and even the most remote mountain barangays now have public elementary and high schools.
He added that the City allocated about P5 million for their Special Education Fund (SEF) and an additional P10 million to support public schools.
Macopia encouraged local government officials and non-government organizations (NGOs) to use the available data to form appropriate social protection programs and services, specifically to make education available to all.
Macopia added that the agency plans to conduct the second round of household assessments within this year.
Based on the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of the Rights of the Child, a child is “entitled to receive education, which shall be free and compulsory, at least in the elementary stages.”
It added that “the best interests of the child shall be the guiding principle of those responsible for his education and guidance; that responsibility lies in the first place with his parents.” (JKV/Sun.Star Cebu)