Good governance, education: Fuels for a better future
by: Harvey S. Keh
The Manila Times
Over the weekend, the Ate-neo de Manila University-School of Government and the Kaya Natin! Movement for Good Governance and Ethical Leadership organized a leadership training program for local government officials from all over Luzon. The program, titled Champions for Education, was aimed at helping local government officials become more adept at addressing key problems in basic education among their constituents. Our main partner for this activity was SEAOIL whose company slogan, Fueling a Better Future, was certainly in line with what we wanted to achieve in this program which is to help build a better future for every Filipino child by providing them with access to quality basic education.
Through the support of SEAOIL, the program will also be brought to the Visayas this coming December and in Mindanao in February 2012.
Rice for education program
The keynote speaker for the training program was no less than Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Jesse Robredo who in his 18 years as Mayor of Naga City made sure that education was a priority in his local government unit (LGU). Robredo shared several best practices with the participants of the program, most of whom were city and municipal mayors who were very eager to learn about these best practices that they could also implement in their own LGUs.
Robredo shared that one of the things that he did was to provide sacks of rice to families whose children are able to complete their attendance in school. This would discourage families from forcing their children to drop out of school since by keeping them there, this would already assure that the family would have adequate supply of rice every month. Robredo also added that this would also augur well politically since those that you gave rice to will not forget the help that you gave them through the years and thus, they will then vote for you to ensure that the program will continue.
Ensuring people participation in education
In addition to this, Robredo also emphasized the need to consult parents with regard to the needs of their children. He cited an example in which the school principal came up to him and asked for funds to renovate their covered courts but upon hearing this, a parent said that perhaps it would be good to use the funds to buy science books first before renovating the covered courts. With this experience in mind, Robredo then decided to reinvent the Local School Board in Naga City.
The LSB is co-chaired by the Mayor and the Department of Education’s (DepEd) Schools Division Superintendent. The main function of the LSB is to allot the Special Education Fund (SEF) which should be used to augment the DepEd’s budget to help improve the public schools. Most of the time, it is only the mayor who decides on how the SEF is to be used. In practice the SEF is often used to buy basketball uniforms and to organize sports events instead of using it to address the real needs of the schools which are books and other educational materials.
Robredo made sure that his SEF would be well spent by making sure that different stakeholders in the community such as the parents and teachers would be heard on how and where to spend the city’s SEF. Through people’s participation and proper consultation, the needs of the students are identified and addressed properly. The result is every year the national achievement test scores of the students of Naga City have consistently increased while the drop out rates have been minimized. These are done through transparency, participatory leadership and governance innovations that were introduced by Robredo.
Slow pace of Justice
Just last week, we read about the news of the killing of Fr. Fausto Tentorio, an Italian priest that known to have been a staunch advocate of promoting the rights of the indigenous peoples. While there is still much debate on why Fr. Tentorio was killed, what is really important right now is to ensure that the perpetuators of this heinous crime be immediately caught and punished with the full force of the law.
If there is one thing that has been a constant eyesore of our country in the eyes of the international community, it has been the very slow pace of justice here. The Maguindanao massacre is now two years old and yet, no one among those that have committed this gruesome act has been convicted and put to jail. Up until now, the killers of Dr. Gerry Ortega are still on the loose while just recently, Roy Bagtikan Gallego, a radio announcer from Surigao del Sur was gunned down on his way to his radio program. These extrajudicial killings will continue to grow unless our government will ensure that our law enforcement agencies immediately work on catching these criminals and our judicial bodies be swift to render justice to them.
This can only be done if corruption is minimized if not totally eradicated in our judiciary which up until now is still highly influenced by those who have power and money. Many of these hired killers continue to have the courage to go on with their unlawful actions because they know that they can get away with it. Enough with the bold statements and promises to curb criminality. The only way our government can instill discipline in each and every Filipino is to show all of us that crime does not pay by placing these criminals behind bars permanently where they belong.
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Last week we formally opened the Acts of Hope for the Nation’s 37th adopted public elementary school library – San Roque Elementary School in Cabiao, Nueva Ecija. When i first visited this school just two months ago, I was very sad to see that many of their books in their worn down library was from the 1960s and 1970s. This is the situation not only in San Roque but in practically many of our public school libraries thus, it is no wonder that we continue to lag behind our Asian neighbors in terms of education. Good thing that the school had a dynamic principal in Dr. Miranda and a very hardworking Municipal Mayor in Mayor Baby Congco. Together with the parents, teachers and other community leaders they all chipped in and worked together to help refurbish the library while AHON Foundation under the leadership of our Chairman, Mr. Chito Tagaysay provided the library with P 600,000 worth of brand new books and reference materials! Now, the children of Cabiao can learn how to read and hopefully have a better future ahead!