Back to School: Teenage pregnancy prevents B’laan learners from finishing school
Baby Rose and Cristine do not mind the danger of crossing this dilapidated suspension bridge just to reach school.
By Reynald Ramirez, World Vision
It is the first day of classes. Best friends Baby Rose and Cristine have to cross a suspension bridge made of old wood planks and rusty cable wires to reach their school. The dilapidated bridge connects their community to the other side of the municipality.
“We are excited to start another school year. I want to see my classmates and teachers again,” said Baby Rose.
Twelve-year-olds Baby Rose and Cristine are two of the more than 27 million students expected to return to school this year, according to the Department of Education.
They are Grade 9 students from South Cotabato, a province in Region XII. The region has the second highest number of out of school youth in the Philippines according to Philippine Statistical Authority in 2013.
Road to education
The two belong to the B’laan indigenous tribe of T’boli, South Cotabato. They have to walk for two hours everyday from 6 to 8 in the morning to reach their school.
“We walk on the road along with speeding motorcycles. We are used to it already,” shared Cristine.
Their daily allowance of Php5 is not enough to pay for a motorcycle ride that usually costs Php10 per passenger. “We sing K-pop songs on our way to school to fight boredom. We also talk about our projects and assignments,” said Baby Rose.
Sometimes they go to school with no allowance at all. “We just east rice, that’s it,” said Cristine.
Their parents are contractual farmers working in privately owned pineapple and banana plantations in South Cotabato. “My mother said we should be satisfied with our allowance. That’s the best they can give to us for now,” said Cristine.
Baby Rose is the eldest among four siblings while Cristine is the second eldest among four siblings. The two said they understand the sacrifice their parents are doing to send them to school.
Both also recognize the efforts of other people in helping them. Just recently, they received basic learners kits that include school bags and other educational supplies.
Baby Rose and Cristine are dreamers. They both want to become flight attendants someday. “The Korean series we watched before featured flight attendants. They have been to a lot of places. I want to be like them. We want to travel to far places,” said Cristine.
Their favorite subject is English. “We want to practice our English,” said Baby Rose. They said they want to visit Indonesia, China, Japan and of course South Korea.
Baby Rose and Cristine are aware that they can only achieve their dream if they will finish their studies. “We can become flight attendants and can help our families only if we finish our studies,” Cristine shared.
Despite their difficult situation, they are focused on doing well in school and reaching their goals. They do not want to stop schooling because of early pregnancy.
“One of my classmate said she doesn’t want to go to school anymore because their family does not have money to spend for school. She said she will just get married instead,” narrated Cristine.
Teenage pregnancy is rampant in Cristine and Baby Rose’s community. In 2017, the result of the National Demographic and Health Survey showed that the Region XII or Soccksargen ranked third in the number of teenage pregnancy with 14.5 percent of women aged 15 to 19 had begun childbearing.
As of the end of 2017, the Provincial Population Office of South Cotabato recorded a total number of 2,101 teenage pregnancy cases in the province.
The province posted the highest number of cases in 2014 with 4,094 teenage pregnancy cases based on the data from Provincial Population Office.
Also known as adolescent pregnancy, the recorded cases involved females aged 19-years-old and below.
In 2017, data from the Provincial Population Office showed that the youngest reported case of teenage pregnancy was 12-year-old from the municipality of T’boli.
According the Philippine Statistical Authority, teenage mothers are more likely to drop out of school than young women who delay childbearing.
Makpil Camacho-Aponesto of World Vision Development Foundation said, “As teenagers especially girls experience the consequences of early pregnancy, they stop from attending classes then result to dropping out from school.”
World Vision started their development program in South Cotabato in 1999.
Reason for leaving school
In 2013, the result of the Functional Literacy, Education and Mass Media Survey (FLEMMS) revealed that 12.3% of the 6 to 24 years old populations in Region XII or Soccksargen are out of school children and youth. This translates to 1.7 million children not attending school.
The survey results also showed that the most common reason identified was early marriage, including child bearing (15.8%), followed by insufficient family income to send children to school (8.2%).
Soccksargen also registered low in the participation rate of secondary students. It has the lowest net enrollment ratio (NER) or participation rate for secondary school age population among all the regions with 52.2% according to FLEMMS 2013.
The NER is the ratio between the enrollment in the school-age range and the total population of that age range. It means that out of all the residents aged 12 to 15 – which is the official age for secondary pupils – 48.8% or almost half are out of school.
Aponesto said the teenagers in South Cotabato are not fully aware about sexual health. “It continues to be a taboo topic within the family. Awareness is really important.”
In 2016, World Vision Philippines partnered with the provincial government of South Cotabato in launching the program You for You (U4U) Teen Trail. U4U is a communication campaign aimed at preventing early sex among teens by increasing knowledge on delaying sexual debut, teen pregnancy prevention and avoiding sexually-transmitted infection.
“The local government has the access to data that can help non-government organizations to identify which area needs to be supported in the prevention of teenage pregnancy,” said Camacho-Aponesto.
The organizers go to different communities in South Cotabato to teach youth aged 10 to 19 years old on health, children’s rights, and protection from abuse. World Vision supported the Teen Trail project in the municipality of Surallah, Sto. Nino, Lake Sebu, Banga and T’boli.
World Vision also provided materials for the program and trained youth facilitators on teaching teen pregnancy prevention. These youth facilitators are invited to conduct trainings in different schools in South Cotabato.
“Students or teenagers are given opportunity to reach out to other teenagers because it’s a lot easier for them to share and connect,” said Population Officer Crispy Galvez said in a press release.
The role of parents is also important in ensuring the education of children on teenage pregnancy prevention said Aponesto.
“We also work with the Municipal Leagues of Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program to conduct seminar for parents about the importance of education. We emphasize the role of parents in bringing back out-of-school youth to school,” she added.
Aside from awareness drive, World Vision also supports economic development programs such as community managed savings and credit mechanism for parents to augment their income enabling them to provide the needs of their children such as on education.
Drop in teenage pregnancy
In 2017, the number of teenage pregnant women in South Cotabato dropped to 2,101 case from 2,826 cases in 2016.
The Provincial Population Office attributed this to the province’s implementation of government programs and advocacies that penetrate families from the grassroots.
Among these programs and advocacies include seminars for teenagers and parents, and U4U Teen trails.
Zenaida Duron, Provincial Population Office head, said in a press release that they will conduct more engagements in schools and local communities to further expand the reach of the project.
Cristine, 12, is one of the children who received learner’s kit from World Vision’s generous sponsors and donors this year. They received notebooks, pad papers, pens and other materials they needed for school.
Ready for take off
The flight to reaching their dreams is still long and uncertain for Cristine and Baby Rose. For now, they are focused on surviving another school year backed with the support from their parents.
“We will study hard because education is our only way to achieve our goals,” said Cristine.
World Vision/June 18, 2018
World Vision is a global Christian relief, development and advocacy organisation dedicated to working with children, families and communities to overcome poverty and injustice. World Vision serves all people, regardless of religion, race, ethnicity, or gender.