Update on Zero Dropout Program in Anini-y, Antique

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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 Anini-y in Antique. We spoke with Meriam Lorraine Gaviola and Kim Charmaine Cortez from MG5 on their experiences with the program.

SGV was engaged to perform regular financial statement audits and program audits.

In relation to program audits, the main objective was for us to assess if the Kazarian-SyCip Fund was actually used as loans to financially-deprived families at very low interest rates to help achieve zero dropout rates in elementary schools. We visited Anini-y in Antique where CARD MRI has implemented the Zero Dropout Program. We performed a walkthrough to understand CARD’s loan process and attended center meetings to meet some of the program participants.

We also talked with program borrowers and beneficiaries to validate if the loans granted to them were used for education and to have ground-level information on how the program helped them in school. We then visited the schools of the beneficiaries to ask about their school enrolment, class performance and class attendance. Finally, we interviewed local officials, school heads and cooperative members to assess what can still be done to further improve the economic status of the place.

The primary issue is how to reduce the number of dropouts or out-of-school youth. One way to address this is for the Program to expand its reach to areas where the dropout rate is particularly high, and gather more information on the reasons for dropouts (e.g., financial, health, interest, or child labor).

In addition, one school we visited was able to maintain a zero dropout rate. However, it’s not enough that the kids are attending school; quality education must be provided to them. The schools we visited currently do not have libraries, computer rooms, multimedia rooms or even decent playgrounds that could further enhance the learning experience of the schoolchildren. We also feel that the place has many untapped resources, in terms of physical resources and human capital. Some of the families we interviewed opted to work abroad due to the lack of opportunities in the place.

The Zero Dropout program is lauded by its members. According to the beneficiaries’ families, the loan granted is sufficient and was given on a very flexible term.

The Program can conduct community conventions or meetings with parents and educators to help emphasize the importance of education, and their roles and responsibilities to provide children a good education. Information on difficulties and problems faced by the parents in bringing their children to school can be gathered through this Program, including the information on who are the poorest of the poor.

Procedures done for other engagements are primarily for the benefit of the client and the shareholders. In this engagement, we felt that whatever work output we produced could help improve the lives of many people. It was an engagement that inspires us more.

In this engagement, we were not just auditors but also public servants. We were given the opportunity to step out from the office, divert our attention from our laptops to the realities and understand the life stories of some of our countrymen. In this visit, we were able to hear the stories of defeat, struggles, perseverance and triumphs of program borrowers and beneficiaries. We became part of their lives. We were also able to learn facts about dropouts such as rates, reasons, trends and ratios. The fieldwork also became an immersion which gave us better insights on the efforts of the government both in the community and across the country. It was truly an eye opener.

It depends on whatever you have or what you can do now. If you are well-off, you can be a donor since based on the schools we visited, facilities like libraries, computer rooms, multimedia rooms, et cetera have to be built. Or if you have any recommendation or idea that you think can improve the system and at the same time is sustainable, you can just share it since your input is very valuable.