Barangay eSkwela and the Barangay Literacy Worker: Naga's Comprehensive Approach to Promoting Education for Out-of-School Children, Youth and Adults (OSCYAs)
In 2010, a household and mapping survey conducted in Naga City revealed that out of its population of 174,931, there were about 3,500 out-of-school children, youth, and adults (OSCYAs). The Department of Education (DepEd) implemented the Alternative Learning System (ALS) for the OSCYAs. The city government through its Naga City School Board (NCSB) also partnered with DepEd and the Department of Information and Communications Technology (then CICT) to introduce Barangay eSkwela Centers in 2011 which is Naga’s comprehensive approach to promote education for OSCYAs that offers ICT-enhanced educational programs under the ALS in every barangay. Despite having easier access to these learning facilities, the number of OSCYAs increased from 3,500 to 4,950 in 2013. Financial difficulties and attitudes were the main factors identified. Low priority was given to education regardless of subsidies provided by the government since feeding the family was more important than spending on education.
The city government felt that there was a need for an additional mechanism that would put literacy monitoring “nearer to the ground” and provide a more personalized approach to addressing OSCYA problems so that they can be encouraged to go back and finish school. To supplement the efforts of the Barangay eSkwela program, the Barangay Literacy Worker (BLW) program was introduced in 2012 to bring together dedicated literacy volunteers at the barangay level to undertake literacy mapping as well as organize learning groups to encourage OSCYAs to enroll or re-enroll in the alternative learning system or to go back to formal schooling. The BLWs also serve as teacher aides in Barangay eSkwela Centers.
Before deployment, BLWs were given regular training using a “learning by doing” approach with experienced or accredited specialists and practitioners to capacitate and enhance their knowledge and skills in ALS and deliver better livelihood training for OSCYAs. With capacities on developing linkages and resource mobilization, they are able to access scholarship programs for ALS passers or provide job matching with local enterprises.
The program also incentivized the ALS delivery system by providing equipment and technical assistance on a 2-for-1 counterparting system to the barangays, medical and hospitalization benefits to ALS enrollees, and granting scholarships to the top 20 ALS passers each year. In addition to medical/health care benefits, ALS enrollees are also entitled to a 50% discount on hospital bills and medicines at the Naga City Hospital, free travel during Accreditation and Equivalency (A&E) examination, and free printing of ALS modules during sessions.
As a result, the program decreased the number of OSCYAs in Naga from 7,465 in 2016 to 6,456 in 2017 which was a 14% decrease compared to the previous year. In terms of ALS passing rates, it increased from 36.9% passers in 2014 to 72% passers in 2017. Around 1,460 ALS graduates under the program are now either enrolled in various private and state colleges and universities in the city or have secured employment in the private sector in the country or abroad.
Some of those who decided to pursue tertiary education have enrolled in the city-owned and operated City College of Naga or other TESDA-accredited technical vocational schools within the Bicol Region. The effective implementation of Naga City’s comprehensive multi-stakeholder effort to provide much-needed education to OSCYAs had resulted in a significant sustained increase in passing rate of out-of-school youth and adults in the city.
In addition, the program paved the way for the creation of the Naga City Out-of-School Youth Organization (NOSYO), whose members are the out-of-school youth enrolled in the ALS program. Guided and supported by the BLWs and their respective Barangay Councils, the participation of out-of-school youth (OSY) and the conduct of various community activities such as encampment, leadership trainings, fellowships and gatherings had greatly contributed to their individual development and empowerment. Members elect their own officials within the barangay and the city through the NOSYO Federation, the citywide organization of OSYs.
A tripartite memorandum of agreement was also forged between the Barangay Councils, DepEd Naga City Division, and the Naga City Government to further articulate various roles of involved agencies for the program. Institutionally, the Naga City eSkwela Project Management Committee designs concrete programs in order to address the educational concern of OSCYAs in the city as mandated by enabling ordinance; and monitors OSCYA participation rate and performance indicators to guide planning and budgeting by the Local School Board. The committee closely coordinates with line agencies and non-government organizations and maintains the necessary records on the effectiveness of the program.
Naga’s program for OSCYAs clearly provides a comprehensive and inclusive approach in promoting education for all that enables them to pursue their dreams for a better future.