The anguish brought by the recent violence that rocked Maguindanao has somewhat subsided as seen on the faces of civilians trying to live normal lives now. But the surrounding countryside is displaying worrying signs.
Leaves and grasses are slowly turning yellowish due to the extreme heat brought by El Niño to the province. A creek about two kilometers away from Malangit Elementary School in Buluan is drying up. In good times, school kids go there to catch mudfish and tilapia for food.
Wasadin Salipada, 13, was lucky enough to have small tilapia for lunch when we talked with each other recently at Malangit Elementary School. He was among the 85 school children being assisted by Fluor through the E=MC2 (Education My Charitable Contribution) Project.
Now on its fifth year in Maguindanao, E=MC2 is being implemented by the Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP).
Wasadin, like the rest of the kids, survives on whatever income the family could raise amidst poverty affecting most families in Maguindanao. His father goes fishing at Buluan River when he is finished with task as Barangay secretary in their village. He has no land to till, so he augments meager income by gathering firewood and selling fish if catch is plenty.
Most school children cannot survive hardship brought by extreme poverty, that’s why they’ll drop out of school, it was learned from Sir Javier Kumandi, the school principal who is now the district supervisor. “It’s the first time for us to have 105 Grade VI pupils now. Usually, we only reach 30 students during graduation,” Kumandi disclosed. Malangit Elementary School has a total enrolment of 480 students for the school year. Of the 105 Grade VI pupils, 85 were beneficiaries of E=MC2 since Grade II.
Lack of classroom and teachers made children situation more difficult. Only six regular teachers assisted by one volunteer handle the students. “We conduct two sessions for our Grade VI pupils, one group in the morning and the other in the afternoon,” Mr. Kumandi said. “It’s hard to accommodate all of the 105 students in one class, learning will be sacrificed,” he added.
Poverty and occasional conflict have not prevented children like Wasadin from going to school. He was still in Grade II when he was assisted by E=MC2 project. Now already in Grade VI, he is confident that his last year in the elementary would be as successful as in previous years.
He looks forward to fulfilling his dream someday. Wasadin felt sad everytime he sees sick children in their village. “They find it hard to buy food daily, what’s more if they got sick,” he said sadly in local dialect. He later confided that he wants to become a doctor someday and go back to Buluan, Maguindanao and treat sick people especially children.
Through E=MC2 Project, children in difficult situation in Maguindanao has been assisted as they pursue basic education. E=MC2 raises funds through employee giving, and PBSP enjoins company like Fluor- an engineering firm based in Manila, to adopt the project as an expression of corporate social responsibility.
Companies or institution can encourage volunteerism by advancing their employees’ pledges of monetary donation providing avenue for workers to share talent and resources in helping address problems affecting children in Mindanao especially on the field of education. (Danny Escabarte/PBSP)
Philippine Business for Social Progress’ Foundation Affairs Unit
Philippine Social Development Center
Magallanes corner Real Streets
Intramuros 1002 Manila
Tel: 527-7741 to 48 ext 313