International Writers Magazine: Global Volunteer Network
by The Book
The Gift of Reading in the Philippines
worth of a book, education in the Philippines.
our priceless necessity and weapon of development, some people
are deprived of this while others may cherish it. Education is
not a privilege its a need, a need in the Philippines which
is not being nurtured. Malcolm Trevena,
33, New Zealand, decided to help by donating 6 months of his time
volunteering in the Philippines teaching English in schools. He
volunteered through the Global Volunteer Network. After leaving
his IT job behind he prepared himself to ride a rollercoaster
to try something completely different and exciting. Making the rich
richer and putting the poor out of work started to loose its appeal",
said Malcolm. He spent his time in the Philippines working in a village
school in the Visayas. When Malcolm first arrived he began to notice
the shocking levels of poverty. "I saw little children wandering
in and out of cars on the motorway selling flowers. I saw people jumping
onto moving buses, five lines of traffic were operating on a three lane
The levels of poverty in the Philippines are extreme. Street children
wander the city streets selling any gadgets they can get their hands
on to bring money back to feed their family. Its a problem which
is familiar in many third world countries, the economic balance between
the people, your either very rich or very poor there is no middle. Many
of the Filipinos who are fortunate enough to get an education go on
to seek work abroad as opportunities are greater overseas. Malcolm stayed
with a Filipino family in the village. He witnessed first hand how much
the Education system needed to be improved. There was a serious lack
"Most of the textbooks were falling apart and were out of date
and had obviously been written by someone whose first language was not
English. I had the only Grade 5 reading book." Said Malcolm.
The Philippines is a country which is prone to natural disasters and
suffers political instability. Many Filipinos believe the political
system is corrupt and the last election was rigged. As the Philippines
has a ballooning amount of debt to repay, education is not on the priority
list. According to the Philippine Education Sector study (World Bank
& Asian Development Bank) 1998-2008 will be a period of limited
or zero growth in the public budgetary allocation to education as a
whole. "Teachers are the least well paid government employees as
the police and the military are paid the most. Some of the schools have
one teacher to 80 children. Some classrooms are so overcrowded that
students have to peer in from outside the classroom." Said Malcolm.
Education is something which is appreciated in the Philippines, its
something which children do not take for granted as it may one day be
the key which is needed to open the door to a better life. People have
a sense of community and their living conditions have forced locals
to make some astonishing choices. One local villager who lost a family
member through violence chose not to prosecute the perpetrator as it
would mean that there family would suffer as there primary money earner
would go to prison and the rest of the family would go hungry. "Between
justice and food the people choose food" said Malcolm.
A group of GVN volunteers built a roof on one of the classrooms so the
students would not need to scrunch up in one half of the classroom when
it rained. Malcolm set up numerous tutorial groups to teach the quieter
slower kids who were shy in the class. Volunteers made a tangible difference
through donating books and carrying out maintenance work." I think
being there had an impact. It let them know that some people cared about
them even though the government didnt give a rats arse about
them", said Malcolm. He was overwhelmed just how much the children
appreciated being taught English. As the GVN volunteers brought some
books with them to the school the children became excited. "The
kids immediately took to the books. They were like dry sponges soaking
up the goodness of books. It was great to see."
Like ostriches in sand children bury their heads in the very few books
that are available to them. According to a meeting held by the Alliance
of Concerned Teachers based in the Philippines, almost 20% of Filipinos
are illiterate and the number of children out of school is on the rise.
The poverty that the people endure results in most of the children not
having the chance to fully finish school and receive a proper education.
As for the street children who wander around working the roads hoping
to make money for food, some of them are reduced to committing petty
crimes like stealing food so they dont starve. Once they are caught
by authorities children over 15 are detained in an adults prison.
According to UNICEF every day another 28 children get arrested and over
more than half of the crimes are not serious.
At present Malcolm is volunteering with GVN in a Refugee camp based
in Ghana and will then go on to Volunteer with Mukono youth in Uganda
for another six months.
Malcolm volunteered with the Global Volunteer
Network, a non-government organization based in New Zealand,
which connects people to communities in need. For information please
about World Travel
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