Rochelle Canete, future policewoman
By Marge Francia
UNICEF believes that communities that come together for the causes of children hold great promise, that is why it supports educational programs that seek to involve parents, community leaders, teachers and students.
For Rochelle Cañete, a 13-year old girl from a small town in Northern Samar, Christmas brings not a special air, but a special sadness. Rochelle was abandoned by her parents when they separated, remarried and went to Manila to start their new families.
“I miss my parents. I only saw my father once and my mother left me when I was young but I still remember her. Especially now that it’s Christmas, I feel sad that we’re not together,” the lanky sixth grade student said softly while fumbling with the hem of her old and faded school dress.
Little girl, big spirit
Now, Rochelle is left to care for her aging grandmother Milagros, her 9-year old half-sister Romila and 3 year-old Aaron, a cousin also abandoned by his parents. Despite her youth, she exhibits a great sense of responsibility. She helps her 57-year old grandmother make ends meet by selling balut, a Filipino delicacy.
“She is a very hardworking girl. I don’t ask her to work, she does it on her own. When I’m doing chores, she tells me, ‘Grandma, just rest and I’ll do these chores for you.’ Many people want to take Rochelle in, but she says she wants to take care of me because I’m already old. I tell her that it’s her decision but it is important for her to study hard,” her grandmother explains.
And study hard she does. Despite selling balut after finishing class at 5 pm and going home late at 9pm with a measly P150 earnings, Rochelle is the number one student in her batch.
“Even if she goes home late and tired from selling balut, she still finds time to study. Rochelle has even won district competitions in math, and also excels in sports,” Maribel Formaran, Principal of Libas Elementary School, says.
Absences and drop-outs
Sadly though, there are many times when Rochelle misses school because of her responsibilities at home. Like many of her classmates, friends and neighbors in the farming municipality of Lavezares who incur absences during planting and harvesting of crops, Rochelle sometimes misses out on important lessons being taught by her teachers.
Their school has one of the highest scores on the National Achievement Test exams, but it also has an equally high drop out rate because children are dropping out of school because of poverty, or because the students live in farms very far from the school. Students who could have grown up to become good doctors, lawyers or businessmen may find themselves mired forever in poverty because of this.
Thankfully, an alternative learning module called E-IMPACT or Enhanced Instructional Management by Parents, Community and Teachers, might be the answer to this challenge that Rochelle and millions like her around the Philippines are facing.
Making an impact
“Rochelle always asks my permission if she can miss school for 1 to 2 days because she needs to help her grandmother. She’s very intelligent, that’s why we hope to implement E-IMPACT because we can just give her modules to study. She can also become the ‘program teacher’ who can lead her neighbors and classmates in the same area to study the lessons they are missing,” Elena Flores, Rochelle’s adviser, explains.
E-IMPACT also taps the community, families and local officials, and encourages them to work together to make sure that children receive basic education despite their situation.
“We help the school because it is our duty to help each other. We are in constant communication with the teachers because we also think education is important to all children, because children are the hope of our nation. The future is in their hands,” Barangay Captain Rosita Mahinay said with conviction.
With help from UNICEF, teachers are trained to conduct E-IMPACT trainings to students, their families and barangay officials. They are given modules for different grade levels and subjects that the students can take home.
Libas Elementary School, being one of the beneficiaries of UNICEF’s Sixth Country Programme for Children, has already received modules for the first grading period and is now waiting for the others to be delivered. Rochelle has already been oriented in E-IMPACT and is confident that she can also help other students in the process. Like many Filipino children all over the archipelago, Rochelle has big dreams.
“I’m graduating this March and I want to study high school if my grandmother will permit me. I want to be a policewoman someday, like my father,” she said with a sweet smile.
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Children First Newsletter (Q4 2009 Issue)
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