Update on the Zero Dropout Program in Lupon, Davao Oriental

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

The SGV ZeDrES team, headed by Market Group 5 and Financial Services Risk Management, was engaged to perform audits of the ZeDrES program in various areas around the country. One of these areas was Lupon in Davao Oriental. We spoke with Hazel Grace Apa and Gabrielle Denise Aragon from MG5 on their experiences with the program.

We were assigned to visit the Lupon, Davao Oriental CARD branch. During the program audit, we interviewed selected ZeDrES fund borrowers and asked them why they availed themselves of the loan and where the loan was used. In addition to this, we interviewed school principals and the DepEd district officers on the major causes of student dropouts in the area and their insights regarding a community library. We also interviewed municipal officers on their plans to address the increasing dropout rate in the area.

The major issues that we noted included the following:

• Poverty is the primary reason for dropouts. Many pupils don’t come to school because they don’t have “baon” or school supplies. According to the teachers we interviewed, some pupils work at a young age or take care of their younger siblings while their parents are at work.

• Need for more improvements in school facilities and infrastructure. Lack of libraries in some schools and also of computer laboratories.

• Insufficient number of textbooks for the pupils.

During our visit, we gathered positive feedback regarding the ZeDrES program. Numerous borrowers and beneficiaries were thankful for the program since it helped alleviate their need for funding to send their children to school. Also, the beneficiaries were all thankful for the program since it provided a way for the children to continue with their studies and not to drop out from school.

The challenge that we noted in our on-ground observations is how to extend the reach of the program to achieve a 0% drop-out rate. As of 2011, the Philippine elementary drop-out rate was 6%. More efforts are needed to achieve the goal of a 0% drop-out rate, such as extending the reach of organizations like CARD who support the improvement of Philippine education.

The engagement helped us take a look at what is happening in our country and how we could help out. We realized that we could do more in helping our less fortunate brothers and sisters and we also recognized that we are not just ordinary auditors but members of a community who could help out in our own little way by ensuring that programs such as ZeDrES are properly implemented.

SGV has helped the less fortunate communities by ensuring that the contributions of institutions like the Kazarian-SyCip Fund are felt in these communities and that programs like ZeDrES reach them. SGV also intends to discuss the observations noted during our program audit with national officials. Reporting what we saw during our on-ground visits will pave the way for action plans that will address the issues we noted during our program audit.

It was not just an ordinary audit, but an audit that will help dictate the future of Filipino children. That’s how SGV can make a big difference in the community and we are proud to be part of that.

There are simple ways like information sharing, volunteering to teach out-of-school youth and donating reference books, which can make a big difference. For the private companies, they can help out by adopting a school or establishing feeding programs to decrease malnutrition issues in public schools.

Please click this link OperationZero to read our January 2014 issue of the “Operation Zero” news magazine, which focuses on the socioeconomic dimension of the areas we have visited. Through this publication, and our participation in the program, we hope to contribute to the realization of the national development agenda.