PHS makes ways to keep students in school

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    CITY OF SAN FERNANDO—Jeffrey Credo would have joined the growing ranks of dropouts and out-of-school youths this year.

    Credo, already 17 but just in first year, has spared himself from that plight. Thanks to the Balik-Eskwela (Return to School) program here of the Pampanga High School, the biggest secondary school supported by the Department of Education in the province. It is 100 years old, established by American educators, known around here as Thomasites, in 1908.
    To keep Credo in school, the PHS hired him as a library assistant. His P1,500 monthly allowance comes from the proceeds of the school canteen, which is run by the teachers and employees’ cooperative.

    Working by day, he studies at night. The PHS is the only public secondary school in Pampanga that has maintained a night school since 2006.

    Saturdays are for physical education class. The technology and home economic subject is earned through a certification from the employer.

    Credo hopes to finish the fifth year so he could move to college and be enrolled in a chemical engineering course.

    “Gusto ko hong makatapos. Para ho sa kinabukasan ko ito (I want to finish college. It is for my future),” he said in between his work at the library on Thursday.

    At least 74 students had graduated through this program since 2006, according to Dr. Imelda Penecilla-Macaspac, PHS principal.

    A total of 119 are currently enrolled, but this is lower than last year’s 143 enrollees.
    “A few are hired for clerical works in school. Most of them work as housemaids, tricycle drivers or vendors in the public market,” Macaspac said of Credo’s batch.

    Some have dropped out of the PHS as early as 1995 and resumed studies one or two years ago. Most of them decided to remain in school by studying on the night shift.

    “Than drop themselves out, they come to us asking to be transferred to the night school. They really don’t want to stop schooling kaya kailangan naming sapuhin (that’s why we need to support them),” Macaspac explained.

    The need to work to be able to earn and support the family is the frequently cited reason for why students stop schooling, she said.

    The night school is funded the city government of San Fernando through Mayor Oscar Rodriguez. The P400,000 annual grant pays the honoraria of teachers.

    “Education is the only hope of the deprived and the savior of the state and the future. A leader who is conscious of his mandate and the longings of his people must realize that education plays a vital role in raising the quality of life especially of the downtrodden,” Rodriguez said when asked why his administration supports the night school.

    A son of a landless farmer, Rodriguez himself took odd jobs up to become a lawyer.
    The program has helped trim down the dropout rate at the PHS. Yearly, that goes at an average of seven percent of 600 pupils, according to the school’s information program and management system.
    This and the other interventions in the Balik-Eskwela program are done under the “School First Means Students First” program drawn up by the academic community, Parents Teachers Association, the PHS Federation of Alumni Associations and city government.
    The “Open High School” has graduated at least two physically disabled students. Four are currently enrolled. Home-based and facilitated by teachers-coordinators, it uses modules developed by the DepEd.


    FREE LUNCH

    At least 300 poor students get free lunch daily.

    “It’s eat-all- you-can. Some students get three servings,” said Jocelyn Quizon, head of the school’s home economics department.

    This intervention, running on its third year now, is supported by California-based businessman Rene Medina (PHS Batch ’67) on a P1-million grant per year.

    Lunch on Thursday consisted of boiled vegetables with ground pork. The school buys rice from the National Food Authority to stretch the budget.

    Various alumni now support 39 students who get P600 monthly for their allowance. An alumna gave 82 sets of uniform.
    Medina sent 66 PHS graduates to scholars by paying for their tuition.

    Home economics students get to earn their allowance from profits by making snacks. The group of Girlie Galang, a third year student, earned P600 on Wednesday from the yam cake. On Thursday, they used their earnings to buy ingredients to make polvoron (milk candies).

    The school maintains also the PHS Salon on a building built on Medina’s grant in April 2007. Here, 300 cosmetology students take turns doing nail and hair care and massage. The school gets half of the fee. The other half goes to the students.

    Ronalyn Cayanan, 15, raises her allowance this way. On Wednesday, she managed to buy materials for her school project when she earned P50 for doing manicure and pedicure for a teacher. The salon has also graduated 21 students who, given certificates of competency by the Tesda, work or operate now their respective beauty parlors.

    Because about 80 percent of PHS graduates don’t enter college, Macaspac has turned the speech class into a call center training center. The automotive class provides hands-on training as well. This way, the students can get immediate employment on Tesda’s certification. The students are linked to alumni who may be in need of such skilled workers or are referred to the Don Honorio Ventura College of Arts and Trade in Bacolor for formal studies.

    The PHS put more focus on poor students after its partners have accomplished the physical rehabilitation phase. Mt. Pinatubo’s 1991 eruptions and lahar flows damaged the school while fraternity wars and youth-related crimes diminished the school’s status. It has both recovered structures-wise and academic-wise, earning excellent marks from the DepEd in the last four years, records showed.

    To Macaspac, however, everything in this remarkable partnership began with the students.
    “May lumalapit sa amin, wala raw pangkain or pamasahe. (Students come to us telling us they don’t have food or travel fare). The ability of students to communicate to us helps us know their actual needs and we—the parents, teachers, graduates, local officials, the business sector—find ways to keep them in school for as long as we can because that’s where the youth should be,” she said.

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