Monday, February 1, 2010

Education and Urban Poverty

Nelson Mandela once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Education influences ones behaviors, attitudes and most importantly ones future. In my blog post, I chose to discuss access to education for children in the metro Manila as well as the relocated communities. Do the children have less access to schools now they have been relocated; similar to how the adults in the communities have less access to work since being relocated? Education standards and requirements are universal throughout the Philippines; both urban and rural children need to meet the same standards, whether they are given the resources to do so is up for question. There is clearly a causal relationship between education and urban poverty primarily due to lack of understanding and awareness of their environment as well as their means of improving their way of life.

While at the communities we were able to visit the pre-schools that have been opened within the blocks to help children get a head start on their education. I believe this was an excellent way to show the movement towards sustainability within the community. It speaks to the foundation that is being set for these children; that education is a critical priority in their lives. I was able to observe the beginning of a pre-school session; they began with a prayer, national anthem and then went in identifying letters in the alphabet. The children were all excited, all willing and eager to answer the instructors’ questions; even if they were unsure they still made an attempt. The instructors were supportive and encouraged the children to try again if they did not get it on the first time.

It was also my observation, while walking through the community as well as traveling through metro Manila, there were groups of children and teenagers on the streets, sitting outside of houses, or hanging out in community venues. I kept thinking, “Why are these kids not in school?” It was during the week as well as during typical school hours. In one day, it would not be difficult to spot hundreds of kids wandering the streets while traveling through Manila. This begged the question; do these kids have basic access to education? One would assume living in metro Manila; children would have access through public transportation or simply walking to school. However, if we were to look at access to education in the rural community, how to these children get to and from school?

Some would argue that the problem with access to education in the Philippines is due to the continuing social divide in the country. The Undersecretary of education publically points out that education in the Philippines has been on a continuous decline for the last 25 years, largely because of the social divide. An article written by Ronald Meinardus of the Friedman Naumann Foundation for Liberty points out that there are two possibly solutions; increase the resources for education or institute a systematic population policy.

Both solutions make sense and should be considered. I believe that lack of resources has already been approached but there is considerable difficulty trying to fix that at this point due to the economy in the Philippines as well as around the world. Over population is something needs to be addressed by educating and creating awareness of its effects. Being a predominately Catholic country, population control would have to be explained and justified very clearly to the people of the Philippines.
Although the solution is not clear, it is institutions like Adamson University and the community leaders of Northville and Southville that are making a change. Each day they continue to educate the adults as well as the children on the importance of education and knowledge, the closer they get to alleviating urban poverty.

by Melinda Whitemarsh

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