Education is the key for one to succeed in life. Knowing how to read and knowing how to write are necessary skills to gain knowledge. Poverty may be an obstacle. A driving force within a person is a point mark to change his or her life. But if a person is determined in his life to improve he must do something. There are concerns that parents don’t care enough for their family or have little determination for their children’s future, for the sake of wanting. What would it be if education would be secondary to basic necessity in life, the food on the table or shelter or clothing? What would be the priority? Here is the story of a youth I met inside the bus.
The Bus Journey
I was riding in a bus one day to attend a gathering in school for community outreach program in nearby place. The distance would take an hour and a half to travel. The bus would occasionally make stops to discharge or take in passengers. I noticed several youth come up the bus and sell foodstuffs and magazines and drinks. One of them asked me to try to taste his ‘paninda’, meaning prepared sweet delicacy. While I was taking my purse to get money, I was thinking this boy should be in school and wondering about his parents’ responsibility for their children’s education. At first I was hesitant to buy, but the boy insisted and he said, “I have to finish selling the stuff.” I was startled as if he is compelling me to buy. I asked myself, “Do I have the right to refuse or be compelled to buy because of pity?” I decided to buy 3 pieces ‘panucha’, a sweet delicacy made from colored sugar and nuts. I was struck by his eagerness at his struggle to survive. I was not concerned about his foodstuffs, where it came from and its preparation-rather, I was concerned of his dedication to his work at his age in spite of the many dangers that might befall him on the often bustling streets. Since I have more time to talk to him as I looked at my watch, I wanted to know more about his life, where he came from and about his family. I asked him if we could talk. The boy agreed. As the conversation continued, I requested the boy to sit beside me to tell me more about his life story. I paid the bus fare and enough for him to travel until his return home.
The Boy’s Story
The boy grew up in a remote area in Tondo, a densely populated area situated in Metro Manila. He can’t recollect his exact birth date and birth place. As far as he can remember, the family moved from one place of residence to another until he recognized things around him. Every day early in the morning, in his early years of life (at around 3-4 years old), he would accompany his father collecting trash such as newspapers, metals, plastics and bottles in a wooden cart and gathered them in sacks for delivery to a nearby junk shop which is 30 minutes walk. After bartering the materials for money value, the father has the means to provide food for the family for a day. That means another day is another struggle. The mother is also aiding in gathering trash during her spare time, but mostly, she is at home with the children and preparing simple food and doing household chores. This boy is about 12 years of age, coming from a family of 12 members (10 children plus the 2 parents). He carries a huge responsibility on his young shoulders as the eldest child. Their youngest is only 5 months old. His father is also doing the same thing he does, selling water and nuts in buses in other areas. For him, the challenge is there; his mind is fixed to work and for him to help the needs of the family.
This boy stopped going to school when he was in fourth grade. Public elementary education is free but because of life’s struggle, he could not afford to barter time to pursue academic endeavors with the much-needed money for their family to get through each day. Every day, he would accompany his father looking amongst the trash for food. Despite his circumstances, he still has a strong desire to go to school. A dream of becoming a teacher one day is his wish.
The streets can be considered his second home. His work would sometimes take him far from home and he would brave the dangerous streets at night, sometimes even falling asleep, uncaring of the inherent dangers that surround him.
When this boy came up the bus, there were many of them selling different foodstuffs. In this group of youngsters, he is the youngest. Despite age differences, their life circumstances have thrown them together, and they have all become friends-all of them can be considered out of school youth. The local leaders in the community were giving them work such as this to help them become self-reliant specifically for out of school youth program.
At the End of the Journey
Before I knew it, the bus was nearing my intended destination. I thanked the boy for the time he has given me. I handed a book for him to read and another book for writing skills at his age. Asked if we could meet again, he replied he was not sure but he was hopeful one day we will meet again. He promised he would go to school and would become a teacher someday. Poverty, as has been shown by many others before him, is not an obstacle in getting education. Humility was shown here in the story in spite of danger and humiliation. Hard work regardless of age and determination in all aspects of our lives is a formula for success. Contemplating as a parent who have raised two children, there are many youth today who are lucky and blessed with a proper shelter, meals on the table, and most importantly, the opportunity to be educated.Education is free for all and should never be denied to any child, regardless of race, religion, or socio-economic status.