8 JULY 2020
By Rebecca Rose B. Enriquez
It is never too late to chase after your dreams.
At 48, Vivencio is on his way to his. He recently graduated from senior high school, under the technical-vocational-livelihood (TVL) track.
Vivencio spent most of his years working, and until recently, earning that elusive diploma was nothing but a dream.
As a child, Vivencio helped his parents earn a living. He juggled work and school, sometimes missing classes for a week straight in favor of farming. For extra income, he also climbed trees to collect coconuts which are to be extracted for its oil.
He had his eyes set on college, but was unable to finish high school due to financial problems. And yet, “life must go on,” Vivencio reminded himself.
After dropping out of school, Vivencio worked different jobs, most of which relied on hard physical labor. He manually mixed cement, drove a tractor, cut hair, carried and delivered loads of produce on his back.
Late into his 40s, he decided to return to school, while also keeping his job. But how is that even possible?
He found the answer through the Alternative Learning System (ALS).
A student once again
Millions of young Filipinos dream of finishing their studies; unfortunately, not everyone can turn this dream into a reality.
There are 17.7 million Filipinos living in poverty as of 2018, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority. Poverty continues to prevent a lot of Filipino children from exercising their right to education.
The ALS program allows out-of-school children and youth to continue their education through modular and flexible means. The pace of learning depends on the student’s convenience and availability.
ALS helps those who cannot physically go to school on a daily basis due to various reasons. At the end of the program, learners can complete their primary or secondary education.
At first, Vivencio doubted himself because of his age. But his strong drive to earn a high school diploma pushed him to enroll in the ALS program. He realized there was nothing to ashamed of; instead, he should be proud of his decision to continue learning.
Under the ALS program, Vivencio was not required to go to school everyday, which meant he could continue earning a living through his many jobs.
He managed his time well, working in the day and focusing on his studies and assignments afterwards. Throughout the process, his ALS teachers supported him.
After a year of hard work, Vivencio passed his Accreditation and Equivalency Test for Secondary Level. This means he completed his studies until 10th grade.
Where was he headed next? Senior high school.
Without any hesitation, Vivencio enrolled at the Clarencio Calagos Memorial School of Fisheries under the TVL track, specializing in Electrical Installation and Maintenance (EIM).
He plans to use such electrical skills for a sideline business, which could help him save enough money for college. Vivencio worked double time in order to afford his school uniform and other miscellaneous fees.
After two years of toiling away at school, he finally earned his EIM National Certification in March 2020.
“My life is full of adventures,” Vivencio said in Filipino. “When I was small, I experienced a lot of hardships because of poverty.”
“My family was unable to eat three meals a day because my parents earned just enough to pay off debts,” he continued. “When I left school to work full-time, I was able to help my parents but still, it was not enough.”
That was when he decided to return to school.
“After enrolling at ALS, I started aiming higher,” he shared. “I knew that this learning opportunity would bring me one step closer to college.”
Vivencio admitted that he still encountered difficulties during his ALS studies, “but I had to fight my feelings of hopelessness because I still had dreams to chase.”
“I wanted to learn how to use a computer, I want to be tech-savvy,” Vivencio explained. “I wanted to learn how to communicate with clients, I wanted to be confident in expressing my ideas, and I wanted to be heard. I wanted to influence others to do good.”
And he learned all of the above through the Life Skills Trainings he attended through Plan International’s RAISE Above Project.
The project also provided financial support to tech-voc learners like Vivencio throughout their learning journey.
According to his teacher, Vivencio is a hardworking and caring student. She never heard him complain of the many tasks they had to accomplish as students and on-the-job trainees.
“Vivencio was always ready to accomplish any task,” his teacher proudly shared. “He had poor eyesight, so he had difficulty with seeing small objects such as screws,” the teacher continued. “And yet he never complained, he did the tasks well.”
His teacher also observed that Vivencio enjoyed assisting classmates in whatever way he could. In fact, many of his classmates fondly call him kuya, which translates to “big brother.”
What is Vivencio’s next destination? College.
He recently took entrance exams. Vivencio wants to major either in mechanical or electrical engineering.
But then the COVID-19 pandemic broke out and Vivencio was filled with anxiety.
He temporarily lost his jobs, which worried him because he had college tuition fees to pay off. He also felt quite sad because his first college experience would have to be put on hold, as classrooms prepare to move online.
Whenever all the fears and worries pile up on Vivencio, he stares at his high school diploma and graduation photo. Here, he finds the strength to keep on learning.
“How could I give up now,” he tells himself, smiling.
Rebecca Enriquez is a Community Development Facilitator under the RAISE Above Project, under Plan International’s Youth Economic Empowerment Program.
The RAISE Above Project empowers Filipinos by making them better realize their rights to education and skills development. We want the youth to raise their hands, raise their voice, and for them to rise above the challenges their communities face.
The Project is implemented by Plan International Philippines in Western Samar. It is funded by Dubai Cares.
Education, Skills and work, Vocational training