Update on Zero Dropout Program in Guiuan, Eastern Samar

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Believing that proper basic education can help us rise above poverty, achieve development and bring about change in our country, SGV Founder Mr. Washington SyCip conceptualized, initiated and funded the Zero Dropout Education Scheme (ZeDrEs or Zero Dropout) program through the WS Family Foundation. The program was implemented by the Center for Agriculture and Rural Development – Mutually Reinforcing Institutions (CARD MRI). The program aims to enable the Filipino children, especially the poorest of the poor, to enroll and complete their elementary education.

The SGV ZeDrES team, headed by Market Group 5 and Financial Services Risk Management, was engaged to perform audits in various areas around the country. One of these areas was Guiuan in Eastern Samar which was recently hit by Typhoon Haiyan. We spoke to Ruben Simon Jr. and Marion Amahan from MG5 on their thoughts on the program before and after the typhoon. Below are their answers:

The engagement team’s goal in the Zero Dropout Program is basically to validate that the funds go to the intended beneficiaries. Its main purpose is to go outside our comfort zone and get in touch with the people in the provinces with high poverty and primary education dropout rates. This is fieldwork in its truest sense.

Right now, current members of CARD only can avail of the educational loan only but ideally its goal is to reach as many people at the base of the pyramid as possible. We understand this setting because of operational efficiency and that most members of CARD are also part of the intended beneficiaries. Also, CARD members span most of the geographic scope in the country, so we can say, with that, in the long run, there’ll be lesser dropout rates due to poverty.

Most of the observations we’ve had is that kids stop going to school because either of poverty or they have to help in the family’s livelihood. In our case, in Guiuan, Eastern Samar, most of the families earn their living through fishing. The Zero Dropout program provides opportunities for these households to send their kids to school through timely access to funds which are not that expensive to repay. A two to three thousand peso loan can ensure that the kids have notebooks, pencils, coloring materials and uniforms which really lights up their faces when we were talking with them about it. This sparks their interest in going to school.

This engagement is really personal; staying in that area for about a week really keeps you in tune with the community and gives us a breath of fresh air from the hustle and bustle of Makati life. We meet the faces and personalities behind the documented list of beneficiaries. We see their faces light up when we talk about the enthusiasm of their kids in going to school, which was way beyond what was written in the ‘reason for availing of loan’ in the document reviews. We see and feel the simplicity of their dwellings and how they earnestly they live their lives, not just reviewing that what is written in their addresses in the loan application forms is correct. This is fieldwork in its truest sense.

Guiuan, Eastern Samar was the first one to feel the brunt of Super Typhoon Yolanda and according to the news, 100% of its structures were either wiped out or damaged. Two months before this happened, we were there. We saw how life went in Guiuan. With an economy hinged on fisheries, entrepreneurship and tourism, this 2nd class municipality is on its way for progress – until Yolanda came. This recent event is very personal to us, and as much as we want to help, there’s really very little thing we can do. Luckily, all of our friends there, who went with us during our field work, are all okay. We think this involvement in the program is just a small step in truly making a difference in that community. The disaster brought by Yolanda brings a great opportunity for us in SGV in truly making a difference by channeling our expertise and connections in the industry in helping the rebuilding of Guiuan. The World Bank has stepped up to channel financial resources to help rebuild the devastated areas, we, as a firm, will we also step up to channel our expertise and energetic manpower and do our part for this cause?

Financial contributions can be coursed through Center for Agriculture and Rural Development Inc. (CARD Inc.), who administer the Zero Dropout fund. More than financial contribution, we think people can best contribute by spreading the idea that such programs exist. That there are people who work to do something to improve the status quo. That there are people and initiatives that invest in the future generations rather than financial security and that we in SGV, who are perceived to be strictly corporate people, are ready to dress down, wear jeans and rubber shoes and walk the extra mile to support such initiatives. Who knows, maybe one of the beneficiaries of the program will be the future president of our country.