By Mar S. Arguelles
POLANGUI, Albay — Gov. Joey Salceda urged local chief executives to give priority to education as it would bring down poverty and spur socio-economic development in the province.
Salceda in his oath-taking speech exhorted his fellow local chief executives of 15 towns and 3 cities in Albay who took their oath before him, as well as village chiefs and councilors, to give education a priority concern.
“Our goals are non-negotiable and unmistakable and these are: to achieve MDG2 by 2015; Top 10 National Achievement Test (NAT) ranking; a college graduate in every family; 1,200 MAs/MSs and 150 PhDs since without them, no development is possible or development is not felt by all,” the governor said.
Laying down the ground work, he said that the Sangguniang Panlalawigan will appropriate subsidy of P100,000 annually to the province’s 720 barangays for barangay development that will be earmarked for education projects of barangays hosting public elementary and secondary schools.
Salceda said that the total amount is almost 50% of the entire EDF or Economic Development Fund of the province.
Moreover, the provincial government has secured from the DSWD the coverage of 12 towns and 3 cities under the 4Ps program of the national government which is now being fully implemented in the towns of Libon and Polangui.
He explained that the provincial government is leading this grand effort to eradicate poverty through education and health.
For 2010, Albay has allocated 17% of its entire budget to education and 17% to health. But he said this is not enough given the accumulated backlogs and the province could not do it alone because of limited manpower on the ground. He called on barangay officials to assist the DepEd and the Provincial Education Department to use their intimate knowledge of their terrain in seeking out school-age children who are not in school and persuade them to get back to school.
He also asked the local education officials to encourage their high school graduates to avail of the college financing programs of the province either thru EQUAL subsidy to their local community colleges or AHECS in private colleges and universities outside of their hometown.
The governor cited significant gains during the past three years on the province’s educational program which include: NAT ranking leapt by 69 notches from 177th to 102nd and college graduates increased by 34% while college enrolment jumped by 15%.
Among the MDG targets, the area of education became problematic while gains were achieved in health ahead of the 2015 deadline where Albay fared well in arresting maternal mortality, infant mortality and children mortality.
Salceda blamed the weakness in the regulatory framework of the Local Government Code (LGC) that aids education only through the Special Education Fund (SEF) and the Department of Education Culture and Sports.
He said the DepEd Governance Law of 2001, in its desire to insulate DepEd from political interference, excludes the entire local government machinery from the task of education and takes an adversarial posture when it speaks of the duty of superintendents and supervisors to oversee the utilization of funds provided by local governments.
Salceda pointed out that the realities on the ground demonstrate that education is a national challenge to the nation and local government must share in the burden.
He said national challenges require local solutions pointing out that the role of teachers is essentially to teach and prepare to teach, so they simply cannot be expected to perform the task of looking for the “school-age kids not in school.” Barangay officials with their mandate from the local community possess terrain knowledge and legal authority as well the leadership needed to achieve education for all, Salceda stressed.
He underlined that without local government participation in education, the Philippines will surely not pass the MDG benchmark on education particularly on participation and cohort survival and it would be a big embarrassment for the Philippines to become the only nation in Asia unable to achieve the United Nation’s Millenium development Goals (MDGs).
Albayanos will not be party to such national embarrassment, Salceda said after taking his oath as re-elected Albay governor. Rather, he said, Albay should take a vanguard position in contributing to the national effort under the new Aquino administration.