Update on Zero Dropout Program – Sta. Cruz, Marinduque

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 with Mr. Paul Kazarian through the WS Family Foundation and the Kazarian Foundation. The program was 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 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 Sta. Cruz in Marinduque. We spoke with Jose Isabelo Abella and Mark Daniel Dionisio-See from MG5 on their experiences with the program.

Our engagement with the Zero Dropout Program can be divided into three parts: financial audit, program validation, and improvement identification. Our team was assigned to conduct fieldwork at CARD MRI’s Sta. Cruz, Marinduque branch.

Part of our fieldwork was to visit schools where beneficiaries are enrolled and conduct interviews with principals, teachers, and students benefiting from the program. One of the issues we encountered was the low quality of the educational facilities in the public schools. In one of the schools, for instance, the lack of funding did not just leave the library unusable (due to lack of maintenance), but also resulted in a notable absence of supplementary learning materials. The school also had a multi-purpose hall that had deteriorated over time due to lack of funds for repairs. Moreover, according to the head of the school, the few improvements the school made did not come from public funds, but from donations from the community.

The Zero Dropout program provides access to parents who need financial support for the education of their children. All of the beneficiaries we interviewed were very thankful for the Zero Dropout Program. We were moved when one of our parent-interviewees became teary-eyed recounting the times she thought she could not send her child to school until she learned about the ZeDrES loan. We strongly believe that ZeDrES is a very effective way of reducing primary level drop-out rates and we only wish for the expansion of its coverage. ZeDrES is available only to members of CARD and we believe that there are still many parents out there who need such financial access.

We were actually meeting the clients of our client which is unusual in our line of work. We got to know the beneficiaries, their families, their everyday struggles, their livelihood, and their respective communities. We found the municipal and provincial government official interviews equally interesting because we learned about local livelihood programs and the plans for addressing the issues of the province, which was again a rare situation for us.

We felt like we were the channel for the unspoken voice of the base of the social pyramid. Through this engagement, we were able to prepare a fieldwork report that captured in great detail the conditions facing our countrymen occupying the base of the pyramid. I highly encourage everyone to read our report!

One of the great perks of being an SGVean is having a great network. We are inviting all SGVeans, especially our alumni, to take part in this cause created by our very own founder, not only through financial contributions, but also by using their networks. There are many philanthropists out there who may be willing to support this and similar causes. They ought to know that ZeDrES exists!