SINCE its implementation in 2014, Abot-Alam Program has mapped more than 2 million out-of-school youth (OSY) aged 15 to 30 years old throughout the Philippines, to provide them with interventions in education employment, and entrepreneurship.
Among those reached by Abot-Alam are the OSY in Kidapawan City, Cotabato.
Perhaps the most profound example of Abot-Alam’s impact among Kidapawan City’s OSY is 20-year-old Maky Mateo, who is undergoing the DepEd’s Basic Literacy Program.
Literacy Facilitator Cristy Mae Apruebo narrates: “To read, write and count are the basic things a child gains as he goes to school. For Maky, a young man missed his opportunity in the early years of his life. Today, he considers these gains as great achievements after participating in Abot-Alam.”
“Maky once said he never thought he could still learn how to read, write and count at his age,” Cristy continues. “Before Abot-Alam, he was afraid to go to other places, because he didn’t even know how to identify letters and could not understand street signs. He couldn’t help anyone who was asking for directions. He feared meeting other people. But, now, he has built his confidence and developed his self-esteem.”
Many Abot-Alam learners have encountered personal difficulties, and their desire for a better future fuels them to pursue opportunities presented to them.
Such is the story of 25-year-old Jennifer Antonio, who stopped school after first year high school, due to financial problems and the distance of school to her home.
“I moved to my grandmother’s house and chose to work in our farm,” she shares. “My life at that time was not easy. My work involved most of my physical strength, and that sometimes weakened me.”
“Teacher Claribel Clavite went to our house and informed me about Abot-Alam. She let me choose among Abot-Alam’s three tracks: education, entrepreneurship and employment. Because of my eagerness to finish my studies, I chose the Alternative Learning System [ALS] under the education track,” Jennifer continues. “I attend class once a week at Purok Balite’s Community Learning Center.”
“I believe education opens many opportunities for you to have a brighter life,” she reflects. “I regret that I didn’t pursue my education when I was much younger. I’m already 25 and feel left behind, but I am very thankful for the new hope that Abot-Alam brought. Presently, I am actively participating in review classes and will really do my best to pass the examination.”
Twenty-four-year old Jean Madton Antac also shares her story: “I finished my elementary years in Nuangan Elementary School and completed my high school education in Indangan High School. Despite our financial difficulties, my parents never failed to feed us, clothe us and send us to school. In my early years, I learned the value of education and skills, and how they can lead you to success. My parents encouraged me to pursue higher education by sending me to college and to major in Industrial Engineering. I was only able to finish one semester, because I got pregnant with my son.”
Jean’s story reflects a common pattern among some young women in the Philippines—young women forced to drop out of school due to pregnancy, with few being able to go back to school after giving birth.
“Having a family of my own, I felt bewildered and anxious, as my husband and I had to fend for ourselves,” she continues, adding that she took up electrical skills and basic computer skills training to augment her earnings as a dealer of Avon products.
Through Abot-Alam, however, Jean was able to take advantage of DOLE’s Special Program for the Employment of Students, being assigned in her city’s Public Employment Services Office. After that, she was able to work as a sales attendant at Manda Enterprises, before being promoted as Hardware Department Head after two months.
“I realized that I must never give up,” Jean says. “Instead, I should be more persistent than ever. In life, the man who wins is the man who thinks he can.”
Another Abot-Alam learner is 30-year-old Shirley Aranda, who stopped school after completing her elementary studies. Shirley married her husband, a high-school graduate, hoping that he could change her situation.
“We have been blessed with three children,” Shirley narrates. “My husband’s occupation then was baker and bread delivery man. His income was not enough to provide for our daily needs. There was a time when our children got sick and were hospitalized, forcing us to advance cash from my husband’s employer to pay for the hospital bills.” She adds that she had to take on multiple jobs with minimum pay to make ends meet.
Through Abot-Alam, Shirley was able to undergo training in beauty care for two months, eventually working as a home service massage woman, before being employed by Endures Massage Palace.
“In the months of being employed at Endures Massage Palace, I can now provide for the needs of my three children, who are in Grades 6, 4, and 1,” she says. “I also bought roofing sheets for our house. I can now give financial support to my parents and siblings. I also bought two hectares of agricultural land located in the remote area of Magpet. I also lend money to people in need with very minimal interest, which I keep as savings. This amount I reserve for future emergencies.”
Twenty-year-old Marcializ Pitahin Perez is another beneficiary of Abot-Alam, having undergone massage therapy training. Although she finished high school, Marcializ found it difficult to find a job. Instead, she was able to start her own business after completing training.
“Today, I am earning money from the skills I acquired. I offer home service massage,” she says. “I am very proud of my current job. It boosted my self-esteem, and I can financially help my family.”
“Abot-Alam envisions a Philippines with zero out-of-school youth,” says Education Secretary Armin Luistro adding, “It is our hope that all Filipinos will be provided with quality education and adequate opportunities, with no learner left behind.”