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A second chance for school dropouts

Out-of-school youths get another shot at completing their studies with the launch of a new community learning center in Cavite.

Through the initiative of Fr. Jerome Marquez, SVD, executive director of the Arnold Janssen Catholic Mission Foundation Inc. (AJCMFI), the Paraclete Alternative Learning System (ALS) Center has opened in Barangay (village) Old Bulihan, Silang.

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It is offering those without the means to study a chance to get an education.

AJCMFI is a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating dropouts, illiterates and indigenous people. Started in 2002, it aims to help create a society free from “ignorance, poverty and sinfulness.”

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50-year loan

The learning center is located in a former convent on loan from the Blue Sisters for 50 years. It is the 29th AJCMFI center. There are 12 others in Cavite, one in Manila and 15 in Palawan, which focus specifically on indigenous people in the mountains near a mining site where literacy is low.

The ALS centers not only accept dropouts or out-of-school youths, but are also open to adults who want to go back to school and learn. And they are free.

“We want everyone to be aware of our program, that there is a second chance, or a third, for the dropouts, the illiterates and the adults who did not complete their education,” Father Marquez said.

He appealed to people to be part of this project by sharing their “time, talent and resources.”

“You can volunteer, lend us space for a center just like what the Blue Sisters did, or donate pencils, papers, notebooks,” Marquez said.

Father Marquez added they were also looking for “anyone who’s willing to support a teacher…,” who he called “the real heroes in this program.”

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He said, “We may have a building or learning materials but we don’t start [operation] unless we have payment for teachers.”

Community involvement

ALS, formerly known as nonformal education, aims to educate the less-privileged by harnessing the “bayanihan” spirit in a community.

For the Paraclete ALS, AJCMFI closely coordinated with the Department of Education (DepEd), Blue Sisters, Paraclete Foundation Inc. (PFI), Bulihan National High School and the local government of Silang.

Filomena R. Carlos, chairperson of the PFI, said, “We are happy and fortunate to be partners with the AJCMFI to make education available to all sectors of society especially those who have no access to formal education.”

Emilia Lourdes Poblete, daughter of Silang Mayor Clarito Poblete and chairperson of the committee on education, thanked everyone who helped make the center possible. “It’s an honor that you chose Silang [to be part of the ALS program]. Expect our support for this.”

The launching ceremonies were capped by an interpretative dance by selected ALS learners and the blessing of the center by Bishop Luis Antonio Tagle, D.D., of the diocese of Imus.

Dr. Carmelita P. Joble, director of DepEd’s Bureau of Alternative Learning System, said ALS had four components: curriculum, learning materials, delivery system, and assessment and certification.

The DepEd-approved curriculum focuses on English, mathematics, science and Filipino. Learning materials include printed modules, compact discs with e-learning modules, and computers.

Delivery system consists of mobile teachers, district coordinators, instructional managers and service providers.

Assessment and certification refer to the accreditation and equivalency examination that learners have to pass.

To be accepted in an ALS center, an applicant has to undergo an interview and entrance exam. Once accepted, the learner can choose to attend classes every day or to come only at his/her convenience. This setup is designed to accommodate working students and those with families.

Mark Anthony Cinco, a 21-year-old ALS learner, said in Filipino that he felt like “I’m in a regular school again.”

Cinco finished Grade 6 before he stopped because of poverty. He worked as a gas delivery man, then repairman in a mall in Cavite. When he completes his studies at the Paraclete ALS Center, he plans to enroll at the Philippine National Police Academy and become a law enforcer.

“I have discovered a lot, and I am really happy to be back studying,” he said.

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TAGS: community learning center, Education, Philippines, school dropouts
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