CASTILLA, Sorsogon, Aug. 19 (PNA) – A consistent class topnotcher since her elementary grades, 16-year-old Babaylyn Barrios will be graduating from the public high school here next year with a gloomy prospect of getting into college because of poverty.
She also dreams of going to college but her mother—a widow for five years now and whose measly earnings from farming is barely enough for the immediate daily needs of the family—cannot afford it.
It’s a painful fact but like most of the thousands of Bicolano teenagers now in rural high schools, she has already admitted that college would not be possible for her after high school.
“Yes, I admit that I cannot go to college under our present economic situation but I am not giving up my dream of becoming a teacher someday, somehow. I want to take a path that is different from my peers’,” Barrios said after getting a glimpse of the works where high school graduates ahead of her have ended in.
Most of the boys are jobless and the girls—some of them house maids and several are dancers in Manila cabarets or elsewhere.
Others are tempted into early marriage and end up poorer with many unwelcomed kids, she lamented.
Barrios said she cannot give up her dream, especially now that her hope has been enliven by a legislative measure recently filed jointly by Senators Alan Peter Cayetano and Pia Cayetano that hopefully will be enacted soon to grant scholarships to top public high school graduates and compulsory admission to state universities and colleges (SUCs).
Alan Peter is chairman of the Senate committee on education, arts and culture and Pia, of the committee on finance.
Senate Bill No. 2275 or Iskolar ng Bayan Bill, when passed into law, will mandate SUCs to annually give outright admission and scholarship privilege to public high schools graduates who belong to the top 10 of their respective classes.
It will cover all SUCs, except the University of the Philippines because of its institutional autonomy as the national university under Republic Act No. 9500 or the "University of the Philippines Charter of 2008"; “provided, that the University shall come up with its own scholarship programs for the Top 10 students from public high schools.”
The likes of Barrios, who certainly will graduate next year with the top 10 based on his impressive scholastic records, will be among the over 6,000 graduates from 653 public high schools across the Bicol region.
Nationwide, there are 7,913 public secondary schools operating as of this school-year 2014-2015 from where 79,130 would qualify to the grant.
In its Declaration of Policy, the bill said the “State is mandated to increase access to quality education to alleviate poverty and promote the intellectual well-being of the youth. It shall likewise give priority to measures that reduce social and economic inequalities. As such, it is the policy of the State to democratize access to education at the tertiary level and make higher education available to underprivileged but deserving students.”
The scholarship grants, it said, will be in the form of free tuition fee and other school fees to the Iskolar ng Bayan in all SUCs; reasonable textbook allowance per academic year as may be determined by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) based on annual inflationary rates; and reasonable monthly living allowance based on the cost of living as determined by National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) for full scholarship.
“This is one issue we could all agree on, no matter what political color you carry. That access to quality education is a right, not a privilege, even in the tertiary level. Let us provide Filipino families, especially the poor, the kind of education that would lift them up from poverty,” Alan Peter Cayetano said in a statement reaching here Tuesday.
The bill has been approved on third reading by the Senate and has recently hurdle the appropriations committee in the House of Representatives.
“This is roughly 79,000 students who are sure of going to college if this measure becomes a law. It would mean over 79,000 poor Filipino family members who would be given the chance of waking up to a better future,” he said.
Cayetano said the enactment of this measure becomes particularly important now that the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) has been abolished by Congress, leaving some 400,000 scholars on their own to fend for their schooling.
“I wish and I deeply pray that this bill is enacted without hitches and delay. I am now pinning my last hope on it for me to realize my dream of going to college and be able to liberate my family from the bondage of poverty later,” Barrios said as she expressed gratitude to the Cayetanos. (PNA) CTB/FGS/DOC/CBD/