WS promotes basic education through CARD MRI’s Zero Dropout Program

(Part 1 of 2)

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 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. An audit client of SGV, CARD MRI has been serving underprivileged women in the Philippines since 1986 through its interventions in microfinance, microinsurance, business development services and educational programs such as the Zero Dropout program.

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It is alarming to note that the Philippines’ dropout rate for elementary level was at 6% in 2011. On top was the ARMM region at 23% followed by Region IX – Zamboanga Peninsula which was at 10%. The bold vision of the ZeDrES program is to reduce this dropout rate to 0%. Since its introduction in June 2011, the program has already assisted 10,967 poor rural children as of December 2012.

To highlight the program’s accomplishments and mobilize funds to support more Filipino children, a Zero Dropout road show was held recently in SGV with over 190 participants from different industries in attendance. CARD MRI Founder and Managing Director Dr. Jaime Aristotle Alip and Mr. Washington SyCip encouraged the participants to support the program. The event ended with an open forum, in which many participants expressed their commitment to the program fund. The road show raised a total of PhP2.4 million from participants including SGV & Co. as major benefactor.

Helping the ZeDrES achieve its potential

The SGV ZeDrES team, headed by Market Group 5 and Financial Services Risk Management partner Ian Lauron, was engaged to perform a special audit of the Kazarian-SyCip Fund, a Donor Advice Fund of CARD, Inc. The Fund was established as educational loan fund to implement the ZeDrES program which was mainly funded by the WS Family Foundation.

“The engagement is not limited to the audit of the fund, but it also extends to the implementation of the ZeDrEs program,” associate Cherren Lataza asserts. Associate Arjay Elnas says, “It was the team’s strategy to visit selected CARD branches and conduct interviews in order to check whether the program was properly implemented.” The team interviewed program beneficiaries, educational loan borrowers and CARD loan officers in Cebu, Davao, Leyte, Lucena and Makati last March. Senior associate Reymond Antipolo also noted that “as the auditor, SGV contributed to the enhancement and refinement of the program so it will benefit more and more people in the country.”

Beyond the usual audit procedures, team members considered the visits to be the highlight of the engagement. “We had the chance to know the actual condition of the marginalized group in the society. We were more like social workers,” shares associate Frances Ponce. The visits also deeply moved the team members like associate Alejandro Tan. He remembers: “This is very different from what I normally experience as an external auditor. Although I still achieved the objective of my interview, knowing the beneficiaries’ lifestyle, background and desire to go to school made me emotional.”

Going beyond audit

“Beyond financial statement audit, it’s about ensuring that children have basic education to get out of poverty,” senior associate Belvin Armenion remarks. With the country’s elementary dropout rate rising to 6.28% in the elementary level, more work is needed to achieve the goal.

The team hopes to encourage more SGVeans to participate in pursuing this vision. “With this program, I have come to the realization that caring for your community should be as much a part of your goals as personal development,” associate Fahruddin Nawawi Tago ponders. Associate Jeric Paul Posio gives two simple ways to contribute – by providing services or donating cash or educational materials. In addition to a loanable revolving fund, at least two community libraries will be set up as learning resource venues for the poor.

To those with limited resources, associate John Christian Flaminiano provides an alternative: “I believe that people can help by getting the word out and enticing people to donate to the program fund.” Senior associate Jolo Abella adds, “We may not contribute to the fund, but we can contribute to the cause.”