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Equality through the lens of the poor

Gustuhin ko mang makapagtapos pero… hindi sapat ang hanapbuhay ng aking magulang upang matustusan yung pangangailangan ko sa pag-aaral.”

It is not anyone’s fault. Some of us are just unfortunate to be in a situation that does not allow us to have the privileges that others have. But school is not a privilege. It is every child’s right to be educated and learn. This story is about how a young boy persevered for his right to education. This is the story of Johnrey L. Mabait, an ESGPPA scholar from Zamboanga Sibugay.

Like many youth, Johnrey’s dream is to finish a degree in college and be able to help his family financially. But his circumstances would not allow that because he was born to a family that has very little in life. His father can barely provide for the daily needs of a spouse and four children even more so for their educational needs.

Growing up, Johnrey kept asking why the world was unfair. He compares his life to those of other children his age and could not understand why some have more while others have less. To a kid, the vastness of this inequality seemed surreal. But slowly, as he grows up, his understanding of life also grew and he learned to view things in an adult perspective.

Realizing that finance is their major problem and hindrance to achieving his dreams, he took a big step and for the first time, it felt like he was no longer a kid. He dropped everything back in his hometown –his school, his friends, his tough yet simple life in the provincial, including his family. He started to live an adult life outside of his comfort zone.

I felt alone and useless countless times,” says Johnrey.

Johnrey strikes a pose on a ship as he journeys to look for better opportunities away from home.

Despite leaving and dropping everything he grew up knowing, his feeling was weightier than it used to be. It is as if he felt the burden of the responsibility that he took for himself.

With a heavy but determined heart, Johnrey moved to the busy, chaotic, and totally different world in Manila to look for opportunities. The city was big and full of lights, cars seemed like flying through the flyovers which was new to his sight that were used to the provincial life. He thought that this is his time to be successful with the opportunities that the big city brings.

Little did he know, life would not be easy on him. He submitted applications here and there. He endured walking under the sun holding his credentials, pieces of paper that make him worthy of a job but to no avail. He walks back home thinking how hard it is to find a job when you do not have a diploma in your hand.

In school, Johnrey might not be the smartest but he is diligent. He studies hard and he has a pretty good standing. He could have finished his studies should he only have the resources and money to pay for it. And again, he could not help but compare his life to others.

Yung feeling na every night bago ka matulog di mo maiwasan na tumulo luha mo kasi minsan maisip mo na nakapaka-unfair ng panahon kasi yung mga taong gustong makapagtapos sa pag-aaral sila pa yung pinagkaitan ng pagkakataon at yung tao namang may kakayahan sa buhay yun pa ang walang pake sa pag-aaral. (That feeling when you go to bed at night, you can’t help but shed a tear because there is so much unfairness in life; those that eagerly want to finish their studies are those that do not get the opportunity to do so while those who have the means apparently waste their given opportunities,)” Johnrey wrote in a statement.

After a year of working part-time, Johnrey decided to go back to his hometown in Zamboanga Sibugay. At first, Johnrey was hesitant to even set a foot in college thinking that it is an embarrassment.

During this time, their DSWD’s Municipal Link constantly conducts home visits to the family of Johnrey and tries to offer interventions for the family as they are members of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, government’s poverty-alleviation program that provides grants for education and health of children. Through counselling and constant encouragement from the Municipal Link and Johnrey’s sister, he was encouraged to go back to school and finish his studies.

Three months in school and he felt anxious that he might not be able to finish his studies again due to lack of finances. The thought of going through the same struggle again was quite traumatic for him. During one of the counselling sessions with the Municipal Link, he opened up and discussed his qualms.  

The Municipal Link (ML), being the Social Worker that is assigned on the well-being of the family, strategized several interventions that would address the worries of Johnrey. The ML introduced him to the Expanded Students’ Grants-in-aid Program for Poverty Alleviation or the ESGP-PA which entitles a qualified beneficiary to receive monetary aid for college expenses. The ML helped him accomplish his requirements until he was accepted in the program.

“Now, I am finally reaping the fruit of my labor for 4 years… Thank you for not giving up on me,” says Johnrey.

Johnrey finish Bachelor of Science in Secondary Education Major in Mathematics at the Western Mindanao State University External Studies Unit in Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay.

Yes, life may be unfair sometimes if you see it in a perspective of comparison. But once you get to know people who fight for balancing inequalities, people and organizations who reach out, people who offer opportunities, you will see that fairness is at hand and success is possible even for a poor family like ours. Opportunities are there; you just have to know where to look. ###

Johnrey shows off his smile of success as he readies to march for his graduation ceremony.

This post was written by:

- who has written 137 posts on DSWD Field Office IX Official Website.

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