GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 8 Feb) – The provincial government of South Cotabato has allocated nearly P112 million this year for the implementation of its education support programs, among them the flagship free education program from pre-school to tertiary levels.
South Cotabato Gov. Reynaldo Tamayo Jr. said Monday the funds would be utilized to support the operations of public schools in the province’s 10 towns and lone city and the expansion of its continuing tertiary or college scholarship program.
He said these include the hiring of additional teachers and essential personnel as well as the provision of the essential needs of public elementary and high schools.
For this school year 2020-2021, the governor said the local government already hired a total of 215 Provincial School Board-paid teachers and is currently supporting some 387 school-based security and utility personnel.
Tamayo said they released some P36.4 million in financial assistance to 284 elementary schools, 105 high schools and 26 integrated schools, and spent some P11 million on school requests for construction materials, sports equipment and musical instruments.
He said these are aimed to ensure that the needs of public schools are covered and to discourage them from collecting additional payments from learners through the Parents-Teachers Community Associations.
“That is our target from day one, make public elementary and high school education in South Cotabato totally free for everyone, and we were able to realize that,” Tamayo said in his state-of-the-province address held at the South Cotabato Gymnasium and Cultural Center in Koronadal City.
The free education program was among the governor’s top campaign promises in the 2019 elections that were immediately implemented when he assumed office.
The P111.9-million funding for education programs under the 2021 budget, which reached just over P30 million in the previous years based on the allotment for the Special Education Fund, was the highest in the last two years.
Tamayo said the provincial government will also expand its scholarship and financial assistance programs this year to students enrolled in colleges and universities, both public and private, in the area.
He said it will cover students who were not included in the national government’s scholarship programs, especially the Unified Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education Act or UniFAST and the “Tulong Dunong” implemented by the Commission on Higher Education.
Since 2019, he said the province has been providing an additional P2,000 in matriculation subsidies to augment the P7,500-grant per semester of the “Tulong Dunong” beneficiaries from the area.
For students not covered by the two programs, the local government provides matriculation grants of P8,000 per semester in the form of guarantee letters issued by the governor’s office.
The initiative is currently supporting a total of 15,425 college scholars, nine law students and two others taking up medicine, he said.
Tamayo said they are continually negotiating with various private colleges and universities in the province for the provision of additional discounts for college students.
“This is a continuing program and we’re continually working to make college education in the province also totally free by school year 2022-2023,” he said. (MindaNews)