Parents welcome help to keep children in school

The parents of pupils in the Philippines who qualified for Dubai Cares grants to continue their education said they were “deeply, deeply grateful” for the assistance.

Dubai Cares country programme manager Mada Al Suwaidi, left, and public relations officer Bahaa Hamade receive a rousing welcome by the Serafin C. Rosero Memorial High School band. Photo courtesy of Dubai Cares
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MILAGROS, PHILIPPINES // The parents of pupils who qualified for Dubai Cares grants to continue their education said they were “deeply grateful” for the assistance.

“I am deeply, deeply grateful to Dubai Cares for helping us,” said Gemma Tupaz, 50. “Out of my six children, one child has been selected for the programme. If it were not for the help of Dubai Cares, I’m sure he would’ve stopped school because we can’t pay for his education and his school needs.

“Because of the programme, we can now buy school supplies for him and allowance. I’m really, really grateful.”

Dubai Cares has allocated 350 grants to help pupils in primary schools make the transition to secondary schools in the provinces of Masbate and Northern Samar. The UAE philanthropic organisation has also awarded more than 500 school assistance grants to high-school pupils in those two provinces who are currently in school but are at risk of dropping out because they can’t afford supplies, food or transport.

The transition grants and assistance are meant to achieve two of three main objectives outlined by Dubai Cares and its partner, Plan Philippines, as part of their Raise project – to increase the number of primary school graduates and ensure they move on to and finish four years of secondary school.

The grants are each worth 2,100 Philippines pesos (about Dh172) and are awarded to the pupil’s family in two instalments, at the beginning and middle of the school year. They can be used to cover transport, food, school supplies or fees.

“Most of these families are living below the poverty level, their homes are very dilapidated – they’re huts made of nipa – and they are living far from the schools,”

Raise project manager Ailyn Nabi said: “The number of siblings, they have five or more. The situation of parents, most of them are illiterate and then the income of the family, most of them engage in farming with very minimal income. There are also instances where some of the siblings married early, teenage pregnancies. We encounter also that situation.”

Dubai Cares leaves it up to the qualifying families to decide what kind of grant they wish to receive.

“We never tell them, we never dictate to them what to choose, they express what kind of assistance they want,” said Ms Nabi.

Mary Aganan, 53, a mother of four who has two school-age children who are receiving Dubai Cares grants, was also thankful for the assistance. Without it, she couldn’t afford to send her 17-year-old daughter and 12-year-old son to school. Her family lives day-to-day, she said.

“I keep praying, I pray all the time that my husband will have a job every day because if he doesn’t work for a day, we won’t have money.

“It’s a daily wage. So if he doesn’t have a job, we won’t have money to buy rice,” said Mrs Aganan, whose husband earns a daily wage of about 150 pesos, about Dh12, when he can find work as a farm hand.

The family maintains a small vegetable garden to supplement their food. “We are really, really poor. But I am grateful for the help that they are giving because at least I can send my kids to school and I hope by the time they finish they’ll be able to help us as well.”

About 70 per cent of Raise’s beneficiaries are girls, as the programme is aimed at improving girls’ access to education, said John Diviva, national programming manager for Plan Philippines.

“Without our intervention some of those children, especially the girls, would not be going to school,” Mr Diviva said. “By bringing them into school, you’re already starting to make a difference in their lives.”

rpennington@thenational.ae