Almost 38K street children finished elementary, senior high school this year

JOHANNA Heart Genon was one of the first graduates of the first batch of senior high-school students under the K to 12 basic educational program who graduated this April.

Johanna Heart finished science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) strand from the University of Cebu (UC).

STEM strand, the Department of Education said, is a preparatory program for engineering programs or related programs in the tertiary level.

Johanna Heart belongs to one of the street families in Cebu City, a statement released by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) said.

She and her four siblings were raised by their parents (Wilfredo Sr. and Nenita) in a Chinese cemetery in Barangay Carreta in Cebu City, the DSWD said.

Wilfredo Sr. has been working as a construction worker, while Nenita was a long-time housewife. He did not have a regular job and his work days were erratic.

Genon’s income was not enough to provide for his family’s basic needs like having a house to rent and send his children to public school, which already offers free primary and secondary programs.

In a phone interview, Marie Grace C. Ponce, public-relations officer for the Pantawid ng Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) of the DSWD, said Johanna Heart was able to continue her studies until she finished senior high school this April because the Genon family became a beneficiary of the Modified Conditional Cash Transfer for Homeless Street Families (MCCT-HSF).

The DSWD press statement said her parents were extremely happy while witnessing their daughter get her diploma at the UC’s Commencement Exercises at the Cebu Coliseum.

After the graduation exercises, Johanna Heart was quoted as telling the DSWD people in Cebu dialect: “My graduation means a lot to me because I never thought that I would come this far.”

“In the past, I would be embarrassed whenever my classmates asked me where I lived,” she said.

Johanna Heart encountered challenges, and worse, embarrassment, but she bravely faced all of them, as she really wanted to finish senior high school because she wanted to have a good job in the future—and perhaps to experience further what she and her siblings have gone through since they were kids.

Johanna Heart managed to enter the school in 2014 after her family was recruited by the DSWD to the MCCT–HSF, the DSWD said.

DSWD data showed that Johanna Heart was one of 6,130 students whose parents were listed as MCCT–HSF beneficiaries and who graduated senior-high level nationwide this April.

She was also one of the 1,500 students who graduated senior high-school level from Region 7 (Central Visayas Region), the biggest number of senior high-school graduates in the country’s 17 regions.

The lowest number of graduates was from Region 4A, or the Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, and Quezon) Region, with only eight graduates.

The National Capital Region was the second to the lowest number of SHS-level graduates with 33 students.

The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM)—widely believed to be a poor region—has produced 438 graduates.

Region 8, another poor area, had 845 graduates.

Aside from the SHS level, there were 31,795 pupils who graduated from the elementary level, also this April.

The highest number in elementary pupils who graduated Grade 6 came from the ARMM with 4,839 pupils. This was followed by Region 7 with 4,444 graduates, while Region 11 was third in line with 4,401 graduates.

DSWD records disclosed that the 37,925 (6,130 SHS students and 37,795 elementary pupils from the MCCT–HSF group is part of the 1.1 million SHS and elementary school students from the 4Ps beneficiaries who graduated this April.

Ponce said the MCCT-HSF is part of the 4Ps.

The MCCT-HSF beneficiaries are part of the 4.4 million households that received varied financial assistance from the DSWD, Ponce said. As beneficiaries of 4Ps, the Genon family receives P500 monthly cash assistance for Johanna Heart’s SHS education.

The family also got an additional P300 monthly cash assistance for the sibling of Johanna Heart who is in the elementary level.

Ponce said the DSWD disburses P500 cash each month to every beneficiary of 4Ps whose son or daughter is enrolled in junior high school or SHS level and P300 each month if their son or daughter is in the primary level to all the beneficiaries of 4Ps.

In that case, the DSWD spent a total of P220,680,000 in six years (four years of junior high school and two years of SHS level) for the monthly cash assistance of the 6,130 first batch of SHSs since June 2012 until they graduated this April.

The other high-school students who are not done yet with SHS are not included in the computations.

For the elementary level, the DSWD released P816,372,000 for the P300 monthly subsidy of each of the 37,795 elementary pupils from 2012 until they finished the primary program this April.

Other elementary pupils who belong to the former street families also get their share from the taxpayers’ money.

This means that a multibillion taxpayers’ money serves as doleouts to the children of the former street families for at least 12 years.

Ponce, however, clarified the education benefits is only good for a maximum of three students for every household and not exactly one family. There could be two or three families in one household.

She also clarified that not all the household-beneficiaries of 4Ps are also beneficiaries of MCCT–HSF because the latter’s beneficiaries are street families only.

The beneficiaries of the MCCT–HSF project has a total of 229,798 households as of April this year, DSWD record showed.

When they were taken by the DSWD as beneficiaries of MCCT–HSF, the former street families were able to rent a house because one of the DSWD assistance to them is monthly rental assistance of P3,000 to P4,000, which is the maximum, Ponce said.

Other members of the 4Ps do not have monthly rental subsidy.

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Nelson S. Badilla started writing for various publications in November 1994 and stopped in December 2006. Then, he started teaching in various universities from 2007 to 2016. He returned to media profession in November 2014 until he joined in the Business Mirror last February this year. Badilla finished Doctor of Education, Major in Educational Management, program from the University of Rizal System (2015). He obtained his Master of Public Administration from the University of the Philippines - National College of Public Administration and Governance (2007). He first took up his bachelor's degree, AB Political Science, from the Lyceum of the Philippines and but finished it at the Philippine Christian University in Manila (2005). While writing stories for this paper, Dr. Badilla is set to teach Public Administration, Journalism, and Basic Economic courses starting this year.