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Securing Children’s Futures

US Navy 060613-N-6501M-039 A group of Filipino children gather together for a picture expressing their happiness after having watched the U.S. Navy ShowbandIn the Presidential debate, it was only Grace Poe who spoke to the child in her five-minute final address. But even there something seemed to be lacking, from my European perspective of course. What future opportunities is she offering the child? Sure it is government with heart she represents – even if it is not clear how she will realize it she has good ideas. Her foundling background does make a difference, makes her a little less blind than many in the Philippines who see extremes of wealth and poverty as a given.

Yet an article by a Swiss journalist shocked me (link) by saying that the Philippines among the 10 countries in terms of under-nutrition of children under five years old according to UNICEF, which itself says the following about the effects of under-nutrition at an early age in the Philippines (link):

Under-nutrition in the Philippines remains a serious problem. The damage to health, physical growth and brain development of children affected by chronic under-nutrition—stunting in the first two years—is often irreversible, impairing them for life and leaving them with lower chances of finishing school and becoming highly-productive adults. Stunting, iron and iodine deficiencies impact learning abilities and intelligence of children. Studies show that populations affected by iodine deficiency have 10 – 15 IQ points less than those not affected.

Chances in life

In most modern countries – Europe (even most of the East by now), North America, Australia, Japan, South Korea, Singapore and more – a child from a poor family will have the chance, given hard work, to become nearly anything he or she wants. Of course the habits of poverty learned from parents – such as lack of self-discipline – can be an impediment that is not easy to overcome. The 4Ps in the Philippines are an important program because they force poor people to send their children to school and have regular check-ups. That is already one step in the right direction. Poe’s idea of free school lunches to motivate the poor to go to school is quite clever – one can see her compassion for children based on her background, and it also addresses the alleged misuse of 4P money by some parents who somehow manage to fake school attendance. But hunger pre-school already impairs children for life as UNICEF has clearly stated.

From securing pre-school nutrition, to making sure children are taken out of abusive households (something that is done in many countries, of course with due process and psychologists involved), to making sure children go to school (in Germany the police come to the house if children don’t go to school, no home schooling allowed), up to K-12, career opportunities just after K-12 especially for the TVET and Business, Accounting and Management – opportunities should be secured and no valuable human resources should be wasted.

The German-sponsored K-12+ program (link) which is TESDA/TVET with Dual Training does give kids on-the-job training in companies (often German) that will most probably give them a job later on. But of course it only reaches those that do NOT drop out before reaching Grade 11-12, or are not damaged by pre-school malnutrition already.

Making society competitive

What I have seen here in Germany is that children of Filipino migrants, often not from the “educated” classes, have careers beyond anything their parents could imagine due to the open system. Such a society is usually more competitive as a whole, because those who make it have to earn their spurs. Of course those with more books at home or those who can afford private tutors (or have the right family networks) are still at an advantage. Yet I regularly donate to public libraries – out of gratefulness. I was able to read many books I could not buy in my early years in Germany.

What tends to shock many Filipinos from the more privileged classes who have migrated and come back to visit is how the more advantaged treat their maids or the poor around them. Sure Poe addressed the child, but did she give her a feeling SHE could be the one standing there if she worked hard enough for it? Even many nice to the poor come across, unintentionally, as “charitable”.

Securing the future

Matthew 25:40 (link) says: ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ . Even from a developmental point of view, human resources of a country should not be wasted, they are the most valuable natural resource of any country (link). It is understandable that many families migrate to secure a better future for themselves and their children. Better to make sure people are cared for, given opportunities, before they turn into criminals or families afraid of crime vote for populists with anger as their main agenda. It is not yet too late.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 27 April 2016

17 comments to Securing Children’s Futures

  • Bill in Oz

    In an evolutionary perspective, it makes sense to have large numbers of offspring so that the fittest will survive.

    In some human societies in the past that has meant lots of babies and big families with lots of infant & child mortality. And this is still happening among huge numbers poor Filipino families.

    I suspect many rich & prosperous Filipinos ‘silently’ think that the problem of huge numbers of poverty struck big Filipino families, is simply insoluble. Especially as the Catholic Church prohibits contraception.

    It is very human to turn our minds and attention from things that cannot be solved. And maybe the attention turns to saints, icons and prayer instead…

    It’s very curious I read yesterday that pre-Spanish conquest the tribal societies of the Philippine islands knew exactly what happens with rapid population growth..So contraception was accepted as was abortion and the abandonment of malformed infants..The Spanish missionaries fought long & hard to change this mind set after the conquest..

    A final comment re Iodine : it would be simple to prohibit the sale of non-iodised salt. It has been done in other countries for the same reason.

  • What is regrettable is the way the economic struggles of the nation put a cap on the potential of kids here to be world-class thinkers, doers and managers. The poor are gifted with good brains but no where to apply them. My wife would have been consigned to a life of labor for this family enterprise or that had it not been for meeting me. Now we have a son who bears her gifts of brilliance (and argument, heh heh). A near photographic memory (hers; my memory is lazy), the ability to read situations quickly (okay, that’s from me) and the determination to get where he wants to go (hers; that indomitable Filipino self-assurance, the “must win”, the stubbornness).

    When the nation is richer, these abilities will be unleashed, and if the structure allows them to compete, “wow!” A nation unplugged. I have a blog coming out tomorrow that talks a little about this.

    • Joe, our city-tenant is a Chem teacher in high school. She used to tell me (I asked) in her classes she had an average of 45 students and many of them attend her classes on empty stomachs. I am sure this is true in the rest of the classes in other grades. Not difficult to imagine how much learning is taking place.

      • Bill in Oz

        My parents were British. In 1945 the Labor Party was elected to power in Britain.

        One of it’s major changes was to introduce canteens that provided lunches for students at all public schools.

        This solved the hungry student problem. Later governments in Britain changed this to providing cheap subsidised lunches.Even so the impact was major.

        This could be done in the Philippines now if there was the political will.

      • I can imagine the difficulty. 45 kids is fairly typical here, I think, and it is for sure impossible for a kid to get much face time with the teacher, for praise and encouragement. I don’t see birthing going down much, so it will remain a problem, just keeping pace, until the model is changed. The model for me would be along the lines of the Bohol project (see the blog discussion), where the whole idea about how to teach is upended. Mine would include cheap tablets for students and lessons on the internet, with the rigor of testing and grading handled by a call center in Cebu. The classroom would be for coaching and counseling. For inspiring kids. On their individually paced lesson plan.

        • I hated school until Grade 3 – the rote teaching annoyed me, I just did what I wanted and got very low grades. A new teacher – Miss Narvaez, UP College of Education, just back from the United States with new math self-study methods, trying them out on me – changed things totally. I had finished Grade 4 Math by the end of Grade 3 and did NOT bother the rest of the class with my usual antics. In Grade 1 I got in trouble for telling a teacher the sun does NOT revolve around the earth… whew. She had us look at sunspots, our eyes shielded only by photo negatives, and told us “as the sun revolves around the earth”… I couldn’t help but blurt out my opinion. This was UP Elementary school, mind you, not even under Ministry of Education supervision, way above the standard of most public schools in the early 1970s.

          So the education system of today is probably better than it used to be before, and K-12 is at least in theory a further improvement. What I have seen is that they have teacher enablings so that the teachers don’t continue doing things “any old way” like before. What I also see on the Internet is a lot of highly dedicated teachers in the provinces, against all odds. Seems the newer generations try to have more rapport with the kids than the really old ones – I could tell some stories about that.

          • karlgarcia

            Sun revolved around the earth was Ptolemy’s theory.
            Maybe she was just talking about Ptolemy?

          • We were in the schoolyard to look at sunspots, our eyes shielded only by negatives… I guess she was just careless at that moment.

          • Bill in Oz

            Copernicus & Galileo discovered that the earth goes around the sun..
            And for their discoveries were both branded heretics by the Catholic church & it’s ruthless, murdering “holy inquisition”

            Galileo was not killed.But he was confined to house arrest for 16 years and his books banned. Copernicus had the wisdom to live in a protestant part of Europe which was ore tolerant of science.

            Perhaps your teacher Irineo was merely following Catholic doctrine ?Certainly the Spanish in the Philippines followed Catholic doctrine

            I think that Rome only apologised for it’s treatment of Galileo a few years ago

  • karlgarcia

    Trilllanes wants ro suspend K12.I wonder why Grace Poe is just letting him campaign against K12 if she is for K12.

    True there arelack of class rooms and lack of laboratories,but is suspendinga k12 the answer?

  • My problem with Senator Grace has always been she acts as if the things she suggested isn’t being done.

    Also she fails to acknowledge things like:
    http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2015/05/17/1455717/house-oks-school-feeding-program

    https://www.senate.gov.ph/press_release/2014/0814_angara1.asp

    I have no doubt that if it was Senator Bam who championed these bills it would already be laws.

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