Spotlight on Quidan Kaisahan (QK) Project:
Accreditation and Equivalency Test: an Opening Door.
October 2006. Every child has the right to attend school. In the Philippines, high school is considered basic education and is provided freely in all public schools as mandated by the Constitution. But a high school diploma has increasingly become out of reach for many in the country. This is in part due to the fact that children are forced to work to support their families. Distance of the school from their communities discourages children. Many families are unable to pay for other school expenses such as daily allowances, projects, and transportation.

Sipalay is a city in the province of Negros Occidental with the highest incidence of the worst forms of child labor. Two in every 10 families have working children involved in commercial agriculture, deep sea fishing and mining. Others do odd jobs such as charcoal making, vending, and pedicab (a local foot-pedaled passenger vehicle) driving.

To address the problem of the increasing drop out rate in Sipalay primarily due to child labor, a CIRCLE Project was established through a community-driven education-based mechanism. It involves the establishment of community-based Alternative Learning System (ALS) in the barangays (village), organizing and training of parents of child laborers, strengthening of a local structure for children called Barangay Council for the Protection of Children and child labor monitoring.

ALS involves the training of community instructional managers (local teachers/facilitators of ALS), recruitment and organization of learners, development of modules, and conduct of learning sessions, peer group learning and home study. The ALS modules for literacy of the Department of Education are being used. Other modules include life skills, practical/vocational skills (sewing, table setting, cooking, etc) and active citizenship.

To date, a total of 670 children have enrolled in the ALS. Seventeen have taken the Accreditation and Equivalency Test (A & E). Passing this national test will automatically merit a high school diploma and open more doors for a college education, vocational courses, or, perhaps a stable career. Seven are now enrolled in college.

This month, Ms. Erlinda Edis, the Test Registration Officer of Bacolod School Division visited the city to register 33 qualified learners for the A & E Test. This is a special accommodation given by the Department of Education to the QK ALS Project including the CIRCLE Project in Sipalay Project.

Such is the dream of two children, Elmie and Mike. Elmie, 16, was forced to quit school during her third year in high school. Despite free tuition, her family could no longer provide for her school uniform, supplies and allowances for transportation, food and school projects. Her father is a small-scale fisherman with an irregular income while her mother cares for their home and four children. Mike, 16, was also forced to leave school. The fourth of six children, he quit school because his father had no stable income within his profession: his earnings solely depend on the demand for hollow blocks. The honorarium of his mother as a Barangay Health Worker could also not suffice to see her children through high school. Only Mike’s eldest sibling managed to finish high school since all the younger ones quit to help support their family. .

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Elmie and Mike are determined learners. Elmie learned of the project and the ALS from a village leader who visited her family and encouraged her to participate in the program. Mike, on the other hand, was informed by a friend who was able to attend the awareness raising seminars conducted in their village. Since July 2006, Elmie and Mike regularly attend the weekly ALS modular classes. They also had to pass the pre-test conducted by Quidan-Kaisahan in order to qualify for the Accreditation and Equivalency registration.

“It is my earnest desire to pass the A & E test so I can earn a high school diploma like my former classmates. This way I hope to finish even just a vocational course so I can find a decent job and help my family,” declared Elmie.

Elmie and Mike feel deeply grateful for the opportunity the ALS has provided them. It is not only the additional knowledge they have acquired but also the self-confidence they are slowly regaining. Indeed it is with pride that they are able to re-live their dreams to pursue high school while earning a few pesos for their respective families as domestic helper for Elmie and as farm helper for Mike.

UPDATE: After passing the A&E, Mike is now a full-time college student taking up Bachelor of Science in Agriculture. He no longer works in the farm or in any other hazardous employment. Elmie has totally withdrawn from her work and is now an assistant instructional manager and a peer counselor in her community.