The author is Teacher
ELBERT S. MANALASTAS
The mission of the Department of Education (DepEd) is “to protect and promote the right of every Filipino to quality, equitable, culture-based and complete basic education.” One of the DepEd’s major vehicles in carrying out this mission is the K-to-12 program.
As K-to-12 is now in place, the DepEd is also mindful of the fact that not all young learners have ready or easy access to school. In far-flung communities, young learners have to walk long distances or wade or even swim through rivers just to be able to get to school. This is very taxing on their young bodies and many of them ultimately lose interest in getting an education.
There are the children at risk on the streets, unable to go to school because of extreme poverty and other constraints. A large number of children also live with their families in off-grid communities, where they use candles and kerosene lamps to read and study, exposing them to eyestrain and dangerous fumes. Then there are those who dropped out of school in the last two decades, and who are now 15-30 years old; many of them have not completed high school and now want to acquire skills to get employed or to set up their own small business.
To address the needs of these hard-to-reach learners and to provide them easier access to education and other opportunities, the DepEd, in partnership with government and nongovernment groups, has embarked on “Programs for Last Mile Learners.” One of these is “Abot-Alam” or “Knowledge Within Reach,” a program for out-ofschool youth (OSY). Various sources of data put the number of Filipino out-of school youth aged 15-30 at anywhere between 3 million and 4 million.
Abot-Alam is a convergence program involving national government agencies under the Human Development and Poverty Reduction Cluster of the Cabinet. Through the collective effort of these agencies, in partnership with local government units, civil society organizations, the private sector and community-based groups, Abot-Alam is aimed at mapping out-of-school youth and matching them with appropriate government, private-sector, or civil-society programs that will give them opportunities for education, employment and entrepreneurship.
Opportunities for education include the DepEd’s Alternative Learning System for those who prefer to finish their basic education and scholarships for those who want to pursue higher education. Employment opportunities are provided under skills training and employment programs of agencies such as Tesda (Technical Education and Skills Development Authority) and the Department of Labor and Employment, in partnership with private companies and enterprises. Entrepreneurship opportunities are provided by the Department of Trade and Industry and private groups such as GO Negosyo and microfinance institutions.
Some LGUs and civil-society organizations have programs that cut across the three areas of education, employment and entrepreneurship and make these available to the out of school youth in their respective communities.
Abot-Alam is being implemented by multi-sectoral alliances on the municipality, city and provincial levels. For this nationwide implementation, the local alliances are led by the LGUs with support from the local DepEd offices, the National Youth Commission, other government agencies in the area, and civil-society organizations.
The direct and sustained participation of each citizen, who will adopt as his/her personal mission the task of ensuring that at least one out-of-school youth in his/her workplace or neighborhood gets access to the opportunities being provided by AbotAlam. Together, we could make Abot- Alam a success.
II at Pampanga High School