Thousands of gov’t scholars use stipends for family needs, eventually drop out
MANILA, Philippines — College scholars under the government’s key poverty alleviation measure—the conditional cash transfer (CCT) program—face major challenges to remain in school and graduate.
In its first year of implementation in 2012, some of the 4,041 scholars under the Students Grants-in-Aid Program for Poverty Alleviation (SGP-PA) run by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) dropped out.
Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman said the first few months of the school year required major adjustments for the scholars, most of whom had not been to school for some time and were stepping into a college campus for the first time.
“College is quite an adjustment. They drop out because it’s just so difficult and traumatic,” said Soliman in a news conference at the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) during the first SGP-PA general assembly.
She said some parents would come to the university and insist on taking their children home.
“So the adjustment is a major part of it, the adjustment to city living. There is also the academic adjustment,” Soliman said.
Introduced last June, the SGP-PA aims to give families who are beneficiaries of the CCT program a chance to send one child to a state college or university.
The SGP-PA has a P500-million fund while the DSWD budget for the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) under the CCT was increased to P45 billion from P40 billion last year.
The SGP-PA provides a maximum P60,000 grant per student a year consisting of P20,000 for tuition and other fees, P5,000 for books and a P35,000 stipend for board and lodging, transportation and clothing.
Soliman said there were times parents would go to the university to ask for their child’s stipend in order to feed the rest of the family.
“As a result, the scholars scrimp on their food,” she said.
One of the SGP-PA scholars, Ronald Omazon from Negros Occidental, saw a huge change in his life when he enlisted in the program.
Among the oldest at 29, Omazon completed his freshman year as an agriculture student at West Visayas State University in Iloilo.
The eldest of eight, Omazon grew up working on a sugar plantation.
“Instead of sugarcane, I now plant palay. I now know how to take care of pigs. I have learned that it is never too late. I can still dream,” he said.
The CHEd has 45,000 beneficiaries of its student financial assistance programs consisting of scholarships, grants and loans under a “study now, pay later plan.”