There was another heavy downpour late afternoon yesterday. It lasted nearly an hour, and was enough to fill the streets with knee-high flood waters. I don't know the name of the boy in the picture. I just thought of calling him "Kid Pag-Asa" to satirize his lamentable plight.
"Pag-Asa" is Tagalog meaning "hope," and the national hero --- God bless his soul --- is often quoted to have said that "ang kabataan ang pag-asa ng bayan," or the youth is the hope of the country.
We know that is true. It is almost a no-brainer. If a country wants to take care of its future, then it must do everything in its power to take care of its youth. The state of the future rests on how well the youth of today will fare tomorrow.
But hey, look at him! Kid Pag-Asa is one of the 12 million elementary public students enroled this schoolyear. I guess he is probably either in Grade 4 or Grade 5. Here's what I can gather from my brief and distant encounter with him:
- He obviously has no school bus service. He has decided to walk home.
- He walks barefoot. He has taken off his shoes and socks and rolled up his pants to prepare himself for the long wet walk home. Being a doctor, I don't think wading in dirty floodwaters with your bare skin exposed is a good idea. Why? Leptospirosis is one good reason why not.
- He walks in the middle of the road. That is understandable and almost instinct to a veteran pedestrian often made to endure sloshing in murky floodwaters. The middle part of the road is where the floodwaters are shallower. The sides are always deeper and are probably where the open manholes are. But there is also a major disadvantage --- you risk getting hit by a motor vehicle.
- For someone his stature and built, I think he carries too much load. Again, the doctor in me tells that he might be putting too much burden on his spine and lower back. Think of back pain problems soon.
- I don't see anyone fetching him nor do I see any umbrella in his accessories. If another downpour comes, he will certainly get soaked before reaching his house.
- How far away is home? Geeez. That street is Blumentritt. He's lucky if he lives somewhere in La Loma, Quezon City --- that's less than an hour of walking. But if he lives in Kalookan City or any place further, I speculate he will be too tired to even get interested in studying for next day's lessons.
Everything I listed above are mere speculations of an overwrought and restless bystander trying to while away his time waiting for the tangled traffic to organize itself. I can still be wrong, you know. We are always bombarded with news that the Philippine education system is in crisis, but we never realize it until we see it with our own eyes.
Taking care of the youth, or Kid Pag-Asa in this case, does not rest only in improving the teaching quality of teachers or having more classrooms, it is also making sure he is well-taken cared of and looked after even after school hours.
As of March 2006 (download the DepEd data here), the achievement rates (MPS) for Mathematics, Science, and English of Grade 6 students are 59.45 percent, 52.59 percent, and 49.92 percent, respectively. Truly deplorable, if you ask me.
Learning is already a difficult task as it is. Interest is hard to create if one is stressed out, hungry, sick, tired, sleepy, and cold from all the wallowing in contaminated floodwaters. But it must be done. Kid Pag-Asa and millions of others like him must learn their basic education well. If we fail in making them learn well, then we need not become clairvoyants to see what kind of future we will have.