Special feature: Update on Zero Dropout Program in Capiz

Because of his deep concern to improve basic public education in the Philippines, SGV Founder Wash SyCip worked with the Center for Agriculture and Rural Development – Mutually Reinforcing Institutions (CARD MRI) to initiate the Zero Dropout Education Scheme (ZeDrES), a program aimed at reducing the dropout rate among public elementary schools to 0%. To help implement the program, the Kazarian-SyCip Fund was established to serve as an educational loan fund for its beneficiaries. CARD MRI members, who are mostly from poverty-stricken communities, can borrow up to 5,000 pesos for their children’s school supplies, projects and activities. These loans are payable weekly over three to twelve months.

For the past three years, SGV has been engaged to audit ZeDrES, a mission the engagement team has dubbed “Operation Zero.” In 2014, the ZeDrES team focused on fostering employment and entrepreneurship through the identification of possible ventures in the agri-value chain of the beneficiary communities.

One of the areas visited by Operation Zero was Capiz. We asked Mel Villaber and Justine Go from the Financial Services Organization (FSO) about their experiences with the program.

What was the SGV CARD engagement team’s role in the Zero Dropout Program?

Our team performed an assessment and audit of the effectiveness and impact of the ZeDrES program in Capiz. Along with our on-ground observations, we interviewed key stakeholders such as Local Government Units (LGUs), the Department of Education (DepEd), school principals, teachers, local cooperatives, and the families of the beneficiaries themselves. We were able to gain insights on the educational and economic situation in Capiz, how the beneficiaries used the funds allotted to them, and how the ZeDrES program could be further improved.

What were the general issues that needed to be addressed?

Per the DepEd planning officer for Capiz, there is a shortage of accessible schools in certain remote areas. Thus many children have no choice but to attend schools that are far from their homes. Moreover, most schools lack facilities such as classrooms, playgrounds, and libraries.

The students were often pressured into working instead of studying, not just out of necessity (i.e., family’s lack of income) but also from the influence of their peers. Additionally, each family had limited income sources, which hindered their access to nutritious meals, school supplies, and equipment for extra-curricular activities.

What are the on-ground observations on how the Zero Dropout Program can improve?

Based on our immersion, we find that the Zero Dropout Program can be further improved by continually monitoring whether the loan was actually used for educational purposes. The Program may also partner with LGUs, non-government organizations and foundations that can provide much needed help in the form of facilities (e.g., libraries, classrooms), feeding programs, and scholarships. These can go a long way in improving the state of education in the province.

What made this engagement different from other engagements you were involved in?

As part of the FSO, we are often exposed to clients in the banking and financial services sector. Being part of the ZeDrES audit team showed us the rare side of finance that applies to the poorest of the poor. Since the program provides educational loans to poor families, we saw firsthand the application and impact of finance on our underprivileged countrymen.

By visiting the province and the families themselves, we saw another perspective of society and we broadened our horizons beyond our normal environment. Seeing the bigger picture encouraged us to contribute to society at large and use our time and talents to make a difference in our communities.

How has SGV made a difference in the community and in you as an individual?

Although the amount of the program’s educational loan is not much, it provides the students with access to better tools to handle the daily challenges in school. Aside from witnessing how the program assists poor families, we discovered a newfound appreciation of our privileged access to high quality education.

How can others contribute to the Zero Dropout Program?

The importance of education in the success and improvement of our nation cannot be overstated. With education, people can access better livelihood opportunities that can improve their quality of life. By spreading awareness of the Zero Dropout Program, we can support the cause of CARD and SGV towards the goal of eradicating dropouts from our educational system.