31 October 2013

The Mayor of Diadi, Nueva Vizcaya lamented: “I wish we had EdGE earlier.”  Another lament was made by the former Mayor of Murcia, who is now a Synergeia mentor,   “This is the most exhilarating summit I have ever attended.  The participants showed a level of passion which I have not seen for some time.”

Passion was the key word in the 9th National Education Summit which put together 50 Local Chief Executives who are members of the EdGE community.  All the 50 came on time, stayed glued on their seats, and articulated their vision for a better tomorrow for children during the workshops.1

The President of Ateneo, Fr. Jose Ramon Villarin, set the scenario for the inspiring scenario.  “Education is deliverance from slavery to freedom.  If you deliver children from darkness, you are doing the work of God.  Lilingon ang langit. (Heaven will not forget.)  And you will never be alone.”

Congressman Leni Robredo sustained the momentum with her discussion on Secretary Jesse Robredo’s ways.  “Jesse put the welfare of his constituents above his own.  He had no feeling of entitlement.  He always looked for the essence behind events and details. He was simple and resilient.  To him, every individual counts.  His advice for leaders was to engage, engage, and engage people. Cost effectiveness” was key to his efficiency in the delivery of public service.”

And if to prove the point that the Robredo model in governance works for both local governments and children, former Governor of Sarangani Miguel Dominguez, the first Jesse Robredo Leadership awardee shared how he transformed the province of Sarangani into an education community. With Secretary Robredo as his mentor, he pursued engagement with the community religiously.   Gov. Dominguez met community members regularly in education summits towards a shared vision and collaborative work program.  He engaged the business sector in financing education infrastructure such as class dorms, and provision of instructional materials for children.  The School Board led teachers’ training and parenting sessions.  The Governor harnessed the potential of volunteers through the organization of a “Big Brother program” where volunteers held reading camps for children every summer.  The comprehensive program of the province resulted to an increase in participation rate from 68 percent to 85 percent; an improvement in the completion rate from 41 percent to 57 percent    and a leap in the achievement scores of children in the National examinations from 46 percent to 75 percent.   The children from Sarangani had the highest average NAT score in Region 12 in 2012.

The afternoon workshops provided participants with opportunities to translate their inspiration into a vision for children and a pathway on how their vision can be fulfilled.  The planning sessions were guided by their assessment of the state of education in their municipalities and cities.  Using baseline data, participants analyzed the causes for the children’s weak performance in schools. They were undaunted by the challenges they faced and committed to change values and practices so that basic education can be better delivered.   Although goals and priorities varied by region, the completion of schooling by children was their universal goal.  The participants were almost unanimous in prioritizing:  1) reinvention of Local School Boards; 2) strengthening teachers’ competencies and morale; 3) working with parents so that they can support the education of their children; 4) organizing barangays  to prevent dropouts; and, 5) strengthening the finance of education through improved administration of the Special Education Fund tax.

The second day deepened their passion and understanding that basic education is key to solving the problem of poverty.  Prof. Winnie Monsod described poverty as a rural and an agricultural phenomenon.  “The poor are also those who are self-employed and with large families.  Almost 7 out of 10 who are poor have household heads who at most have only finished elementary education. “She stressed that poverty incidence decreases with the educational attainment of the head of the family.  The clarion call was clear.  Get the children to school and give them a good education.

Mr. Ramon del Rosario, Chairman of the Makati Business Club and Synergeia Trustee noted the low investments of local governments on education.  On the average, only 7.0 percent of their budget goes to education.  He highlighted Synergeia’s success in partnering with the private sector in co-financing education programs.  For PPPs to thrive in education however, Mr. Del Rosario emphasized the importance of having clear benchmarks, spending resources efficiently, having clear roles and structures, and an equity contribution from LGUs and parents.

Prof. Ernesto Garilao, President of Zuellig Family Foundation capped the technical discussions by defining the transformational role of Local Chief Executives in basic education.  “Mayors have to influence schools so that the right of every child to basic education is respected.  But to be able to do this, you need to feel and embrace a calling that you can make a difference.  More importantly, you cannot transform a system unless you have been transformed yourselves.”

The Summit was capped by a speech by Ms. Gloria Steele, Mission Director of USAID Philippines who gave due importance to local governments.  She made specific mention of the efforts of former Gov. Dominguez, former Mayor and Now Congressman Gatchalian in raising the learning performance of children, and of former Mayor Diding Gamboa who organized barangays to support school programs. She cited poor governance as one of the binding constraints to development and how the EdGE program can help institute a culture of good governance.

Ms. Steele led the Mayors in signing a Covenant in support of programs that will get all children to school, enable them to complete basic education and help them to read well.

1There were 70 LGUs who were represented by their Vice Mayors and Councilors.  Synergeia requires the attendance of the Mayor before they can form part of the EdGE alliance.  Seven mayors (7) from Zamboanga, Sulu, and Tawi Tawi were unable to come because of the peace and order problems.

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