The Sobering Facts
Nationwide, 65 million or about 80 percent of the Filipino poor live in rural areas of the country, mostly located deep in the mountains and rice fields.
These 65 million Filipinos are trying to survive on P96 ($2) or less per day. Three million school children go to school without breakfast. How can a family afford the school uniforms, expenses for school supplies, projects, transportation to and from school, and food for the entire family?
This is the case in our Aborlan Palawan community.
Aborlan is an agriculture-based community where farming is the primary livelihood. In one of our communities, we have 280 households with an average of 5-7 people per household (1400 total population). Fifty percent of these households earn an average income of PhP 1000.00 or $20.00 a month, which amounts to P 34.00 a day. Families cannot afford to send their children to school on this meagre living. With the worsening poverty and problem of unemployment, each member of the family is expected to contribute to put food on the table. Poverty is the main reason why the average level of education is only grade 2 to 4. School children have to walk 5-7 kilometers (2 hours one way) through dusty roads during dry season or sliding muddy roads during the rainy season.
Last June, 2016, after the opening of the school year, I ran after several children because they were not in school. I was told that their parents could not afford to buy their uniform, school bag and supplies, and that the children had to help on the farm. Poverty is a vicious cycle that continuously traps generations of families.
The critical link between poverty and education
We believe that poverty alleviation will only happen through education, because education creates greater opportunities for our youth. If trained well, they are able to work in larger cities and/or abroad. These children send money to their parents for home improvements, a better quality of life and tuition fees for younger siblings. College-educated individuals are much less likely to end up impoverished (about 1 in 44). Trade schools also create opportunities, with only 1 in 10 people with post-secondary degrees living below the poverty line. Unfortunately, the ratios drop precipitously after that. One in three high school graduates and half of elementary school grads are impoverished.
Education lights every stage of the journey to a better life, especially for the poor and the most vulnerable
Education’s unique power to act as a catalyst for wider development goals can only be fully realized, however, if it is equitable. That means making special efforts to ensure that all children and young people – regardless of their family income, where they live, their gender, their ethnicity, whether they are disabled – can benefit equally from its transformative power. Education empowers young people by increasing their chances of getting jobs, staying healthy and participating fully in society, and it boosts their children’s chances of leading healthy lives.
To unlock the wider benefits of education, all children need the chance to complete not only primary school but also lower secondary school. Access to schooling is not enough on its own: education needs to be of good quality so that children actually learn.
Equal education boosts economic growth
Education not only helps individuals escape poverty by developing the skills they need to improve their livelihoods, but also generates productivity gains that boost economic growth substantially. For growth to reduce poverty, however, it needs to overcome inequality by improving the lives of the poorest and marginalized the most. Education is vital to achieve this goal because it can help ensure that the benefits of growth are fairly shared.
Education is part of the solution to global environmental problems
People with more education tend not only to be more concerned about the environment, but also to follow up that concern with action that promotes and supports political decisions that protect the environment. By improving knowledge, instilling values, fostering beliefs and shifting attitudes, education has considerable power to change environmentally harmful lifestyles and behaviour. Education can encourage people to use energy and water more efficiently and recycle household waste. In poor countries affected by climate change, education helps people adapt to its effects.