Education: Key to fulfilling a girl’s dream
To most Filipinos, education is key that will elevate them from life of menial drudgery to a prosperous, comfortable one. Ara, 17, a Grade 12 student, born to a farming family with five children, firmly believes so.
“I see the value of education as something that we bring with us as we grow up and grow old. It is a necessity to a better life. When we we have no education or failed to earn a college degree, we will also have limited or no access to opportunities that will help us improve our lives,” Ara shares.
Decades ago, when the Philippines was under a colonial ruler, Ara’s view on education would sound too strong for a woman or girl to say and even difficult to accomplish. With less to no access to education, the average Filipina was expected to stay home, care only for her husband and children, and keep the house in order. By the turn of the twentieth century, when both girls and boys were given access to education, women’s status gradually changed.
Younger generations of girls, like Ara, now enjoy the result of this newfound status of Filipinas who can now voice their opinions, manage a business, and even land a high-paying job.
Wanting to write
“I want to be a writer someday,” Ara beams with confidence as she tells her ambition. “I see myself as a prolific writer, probably working in a production company or writing news articles.”
Ara doesn’t remember how her penchant for writing started but recalls how she loves reading since she was young. “When I was in elementary, I enjoyed reading a lot of stories from the books that my teachers gave us. Then, when I was in my first year in high school, I volunteered to write a script for our class theater project. Since then, my classmates would ‘volunteer’ me to tasks that involve writing. My high school teachers would also appreciate the way I write. This somehow motivates me to pursue a career in writing.”
Ara loves to read love story, horror and crime genre. The pandemic, when students are required to stay and study at home, provided her more time to read literature online. Ara’s glued to Wattpad, an app for writers. “I like the stories that Maxene Lat creates. She writes love stories. What I find fascinating about her writing is the unexpected twist of her plot. I also learn something from her story.”
In one of Maxene’s stories, the female protagonist is knowledgeable about North and South Korea. “I didn’t know about North Korea. It is interesting to know about its culture from a story. There’s a doctor character in the story as well. The character gives me an idea what doctors really do. I’m learning a lot,” Ara shares.
Like most young girls her age, Ara is riding the Korean wave sweeping the globe. In her recent birthday, Ara received a carefully crafted collage of Jungkook, a member of the Korean boyband BTS, from a relative. She keeps the gift in her room to this day.
When asked who she thinks does better in writing love stories: Filipinos or Koreans, she says, “If I didn’t know about the Korean TV series, I would say Filipino. Koreans have a different way of presenting their stories. I’m saying this maybe because I’m new to Korean culture and everything about them is interesting to me.”
Ara wants to go to South Korea someday. She even studies Hangul, the Korean language, on her own. “Na-neun hanguk-eo-reul jogeum mal-hal su itseo means ‘I speak a little Korean’,” Ara says, showing off her Hangul. She also wanted to visit Jeju Island and ride the Korean buses. If there’s one thing that distinguishes her from other Korean fans is her disinterest in Korean beauty products.
Ara has started drafting a love story entitled Started in a Nightmare where the lead female character thought that every bad thing that’s happening in her life is merely a bad dream, including her painful separation to a guy she loves.
“But I haven’t posted it yet on Wattpad. I still don’t have followers. Who would read it?” Ara quickly adds, laughing. “The story has no ending yet. I’m still drafting it.”
Without a laptop, Ara writes her story on mobile phone. “I write when I’m in the mood. Also, when I’m bored reading our module.”
Her friends and family know that she’s writing a story. “But they are not yet following me in Wattpad,” Ara jests, adding that they are supportive of her passion, especially her eldest sister, Joan. Her Ate Joan also likes writing and dreamed of becoming journalist before but forgo of her ambition when she got married. “I’ll probably continue her dream,” Ara says.
Though still in high school, Ara is sure of what she would take in college — a course in Communications. And she’s resolute to finish it even if it means living in a dormitory, far from her family.
Ara’s village has no university that will cater to her course. Girls and boys either live in relatives or in boarding houses near their chosen university to pursue their dream course or just take an alternative course from whatever is offered in a nearby university, if there is a university or college school.
Pursuing tertiary education for children living in rural communities still proves difficult. A farming family earns approximately Php300 to Php500 ($6-$10) doing menial job a day. Sending a child to college require spending more than their daily wage to provide for the child’s tuition, transportation, allowance and school projects. Unless a relative or elder siblings with financial means will help, a child can only finish elementary or high school and work early to help his/her parents.
World Vision is currently working in Ara’s community by enhancing parents’ skill on new farming techniques and marketing strategies to help them earn. Parents are also taught the importance of savings, which is an unusual practice among families who grew up without banks. Families with many young children are often enrolled in World Vision sponsorship and provided annually with school supplies. Teens in the families are oftentimes part of World Vision’s child leadership program to help them develop their skills and talents.
Ara discloses that her parents didn’t finish their education due to poverty. “They said they had a dream once. My father wanted to be a soldier. My mother dreamed of being a company secretary.” Her father reached elementary while her mother finished high school through the Alternative Learning System (ALS), an alternative learnings system in the Philippines for out-of-school youth and adults to complete basic education.
In Ara’s family, one of the elder children, Jane, is currently taking Education. Their parents, Josefina, 53, and Romy, 56, have been supporting Jane’s education. “I know my parents and my elder siblings can send me to school. I believe that they will help me fulfill my dream.”
She also reminds teen girls to get an education and fulfill their dreams. “With education, we can have better opportunities, example we can go up the ranks. We will have limited opportunities if we do not have a college degree.”
And to parents, Ara has this to say: “Support your children’s dream. Do whatever you can so your children can have a better future.”