Update on the Zero Dropout Program in Diffun, Quirino

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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 Diffun in Quirino Province. We spoke with Cherren Lataza and Wella Lou Tandingan from MG5 on their experiences with the program.

The team’s involvement extended beyond financial auditing, to actual ground-level immersion.

We were assigned to Quirino Province (in Region II, Cagayan Valley) and spent three days in the field to perform procedures that included conducting interviews with the program beneficiaries, local government units, the Department of Education, school principals and teachers. The fieldwork was interesting because we were able to get firsthand information from the people who played key roles in promoting education in the locality. We were also able to assess whether the program was effective at achieving a zero dropout rate among the beneficiaries.

We identified the following issues that may hinder the Zero Dropout Program in Quirino Province:

a. Availability and accessibility of Health Centers.
Students often drop out of school due to illness. Beneficiaries in the mountainous area have to travel at least two kilometers to reach the nearest health center.

b. Availability of reading materials and resources.
The schools in the mountainous area generally do not have enough essential materials such as textbooks. Sometimes, teachers have to buy reference materials at their own personal expense.

c. Lack of training for teachers.
One school principal said that dropout rates increased due to inadequate training for teachers, leading to a shortage of teachers.

Quirino Province has a total of 191 elementary schools, 170 of which are public. While public schools are free, some parents still cannot afford the miscellaneous expenses, which often result in the kids dropping out eventually. In situations like this, the Zero Dropout Program plays a significant role by supporting the parents financially through educational loans. A P2,000 – 3,000 loan can support payment for school contributions such as PTA projects, extracurricular activities and even for school supplies such as notebooks, pens, bags and shoes.

The engagement is still an audit but with a touch of corporate social responsibility. We visited local government units and other offices in the community which we consider as key players in the education sector. The experience broadened our perspective on the importance of linkage (i.e., these institutions should be aligned in terms of objectives, programs for development, strategic plans and projects geared towards the betterment of the community).

Last April 2013, SGV supported the roadshow conducted by CARD MRI for the Zero Dropout Program which raised additional funds for the program. The firm also helped by providing points for improvements to the program, some of which we noted during our audit.

They may tap other NGOs/government agencies to give inputs that would further improve the program and make it available to an even bigger market. They may also help publicize the program to inspire more people to support it directly or indirectly.
Please click this link 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.