UNICEF bares learners’ letter request to VP and DepEd chief Sara Duterte

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on Tuesday unveiled “Letters to VP Sara,” an initiative that places children’s voices at the core of efforts to address the learning crisis.

“Children should have a say in matters that affect them. We hope that adults will continue to consult children on how they can learn better,” said UNICEF Philippines Representative Oyunsaikhan Dendevnorov on the occasion of the International Day of Education.

Dendevnorov added: As we tackle learning challenges, let’s empower children to participate meaningfully in their schools and communities.

The UNICEF official presented the letters to Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Duterte the letter listing the wishes of learners all over the Philippines.

IDE

The UN General Assembly proclaimed January 24 as International Day of Education (IDE), a day to celebrate the crucial role of education for peace and development.

This year’s theme, “To invest in people, prioritize education,” builds on the global momentum spurred by the UN Transforming Education Summit (TES) participated in by the Philippines, where education stakeholders committed to act boldly and ambitiously in transforming the education system to deliver inclusive, equitable, and continuous quality education instrumental in breaking the cycle of poverty that keeps millions of children behind.

“This year’s theme ‘To Invest in People, Prioritize Education’ affirms that the new administration is on the right track. At the UN Transforming Education Summit in September last year, President Marcos announced our commitment to recover the learning losses from the pandemic and rebuild our education to be more inclusive, relevant and resilient to future shocks and disruptions,” Duterte said in her speech during the event.

“Let us work together to ensure that our education system empowers our young people to navigate lives, challenges with 21st century skills, resilience, leadership, and strength of character as they join us in reshaping and rebuilding a better and stronger Philippines,” Duterte added.

The said activity is primarily envisioned to generate visibility from local to global level on prioritizing education to reach the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) ahead of the SDG Summit building on the outcomes of the United Nation’s Transforming Education Summit.

The department’s celebration of IDE was participated by United Nations Secretary-General Mr. António Guterres, Director of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization Office, Jakarta Mr. Mohamed Djelid and Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization Research, Evaluation, and Assessment Specialist Dr. Kamaleswaran Jayarajah, among others.

Crisis in foundational learning

Today, the UNICEF said, 244 million children and youth globally are out of school.

In the Philippines, 2.6 million Filipinos aged 6 to 19 were not attending school in 2020.

There is a crisis in foundational learning, as well as an alarming decline in the literacy and numeracy skills among young learners, it added.

UNICEF also shared that many schools in the Philippines lack facilities and human resources to help children with their lessons.

“Vulnerable children such as those living in poverty, those living in isolated, disaster-prone, and conflict areas, children with disabilities and children belonging to indigenous communities fare far worse,” UNICEF said.

Letters

For this year’s commemoration, UNICEF asked learners all over the Philippines to write letters on what they need to be able to enjoy their full rights to education.

Learners’ needs were diverse, such as better peace and order situation in their localities for uninterrupted learning, facilities for LGBTQ+ students, learning program for children with disabilities, and school development projects in their communities. Some also shared their dreams and career aspirations.

Viah from Bagumbayan Central School in Legazpi City thanked Duterte for taking care of teachers, saying that “happy teachers will make them efficient, effective and dedicated teachers.”

“My dream is to have more rooms and more teachers. We only have two teachers because other teachers are afraid to come here. I hope we will have peace and order so that we can continue to go to school,” Aisha from Lebbuh Primary School in Lamitan, Basilan says.

Meanwhile, Choleen from Oranbo Elementary School in Pasig City said, “It will greatly help if we have bond papers, art materials, printers and good Internet connection so we can easily print our work sheets and test papers.”

“My wish is for us to have food. I hope I can also have uniforms,” Matuy Balenton, a child belonging to the Aeta tribe studying in Dinalupihan, Bataan said.

Alhadz from Naungan Primary School in Tawi-Tawi lives far from the town and gets to school by riding a boat.

“My only wish is for us to have a big boat that we can use even if it is windy and the waves are strong, so that we can get to school safely,” Alhadz said.

Basic Education Development Plan 2030

Education authorities are tackling education challenges through its Basic Education Development Plan 2030.

This January, DepEd is presenting the Basic Education Report (BER) 2023 and the Education Agenda.

UNICEF has been a long-standing education partner, advocating for children’s right to education in the Philippines for over 75 years.

To help children recover learning after Covid-19 and other emergencies, UNICEF provides technical and material support, supports vulnerable children such as children with disabilities, helps local governments with learning recovery plans, and repairs schools damaged by typhoons.