Millions of Filipinos of school age troop back to their institutions of learning tomorrow, the first day of school year 2013-14.
From elementary to high school to college and beyond, the students are being prepared for life in the real world, where hopefully the skills they learned in school will be their ticket to a bright future.
Sadly, millions more who should be in school won’t be for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is their inability to raise the money to pay for their tuition and other basic fees. In some cases, their families may be able to scrounge up the funds, but the young ones will still not enroll because they are unable to procure the uniforms, books, and the daily funds for transportation and food.
Such is life for those who have less in life. In truth, today’s “out-of-school youth” are not the stereotypical lazy bums who would rather get drunk or do drugs than work for an education. For the most part, they would want to go to school, but circumstances do not allow them this luxury.
We have not forgotten the sad tale of Kristel Tejada, the UP student who took her own life because of depression, owing to her inability to enroll last semester. In a different reality, the bright lass should have graduated with honors and easily found employment at good pay. But the fates were unkind.
With the cost of a good education seemingly beyond the reach of countless families, the government remains their last hope. Cities like Manila and Makati have been able to put up free colleges for their residents.
Other local government units with sufficient funds should follow the same path.
With enough LGUS offering free college education, all the private schools may yet be forced to keep their rates low and affordable in order to entice the best students.
As Jose Rizal said, the youth is the hope of the fatherland. We’re sure he did not mean the out-of-school youth. Surely the heart of our national hero would break if he were to witness the millions of out-of-school youth dying to get an education, but unable to do so.