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Back to school, back on track

A young boy’s journey from the sea to his classroom

His day starts at four in the morning. He grabs a few sips of hot coffee, and then Jhon Andrie Advincula is ready to face the day ahead.

Unlike other ten-year-olds, Andrie does not prepare for school. Instead, he prepares to work with his father at sea. As a father-and-son tandem, they will be out in the sea until they have enough catch for their family, which usually takes at least three hours.

Though Andrie’s focus is helping his father, it always occurs to him that he needs to be somewhere else.

“Gusto ko pong bumalik sa pag-aaral. Gusto ko pong maging pulis,” he shared.

He was in Grade 4 when he decided to leave school.

His mother, Santa Advincula, 44, still recalls the moment Andrie told them he’ll no longer go to school.

“Sabi po n’ya titigil na muna s’ya. Tutulong na daw muna s’ya sa ama n’ya,” she said.

Andrie shares that at first, his parents did not agree with his decision. But, he insisted.

“Gusto ko po talagang makatulong dito sa bahay kasi po mahirap ang buhay. Tapos, nabubully din po ako ng mga kaklase ko,” he shared.

At 10 years old, Andrie accepted his new life—which means waking up early in the morning, battling the cold or the heat while at sea, exerting effort to pull their fish nets and going back home to catch a short rest. Most of the time, they’ll be out again after an hour of rest for a new catch. There was even a time when he had to catch fish by himself when his father was sick.

Other than working in the sea, Andrie also takes tasks at home such as fetching water from a deep well, cooking and even taking care of his younger siblings.

Helping the family

Andrie’s family lives near the town’s fish port in Brgy. 7, Catanauan, Quezon Province in a small house that can barely fit all of them. The family has eight children.

Growing up, Andrie has witnessed how hard their life is.

“Minsan, wala talaga kaming pangtanghalian. Minsan nga, tinapay lang na paghahati-hatian naming lahat,” shared Santa, who cannot hide her tears.

In 2011, the family qualified to be a beneficiary of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program. Andrie and his sister, Angelica, are monitored under the program. The family is provided cash grants in exchange for their compliance to the program conditions on education, which is attending their classes with a minimum of 85 percent attendance rate every month.

Santa shared that the grants from the program have been a great help, especially that they can provide for the school needs of their children. However, the grants from the program have not been enough to convince Andrie to stay in school.

“Nung hindi siya pumapasok, hindi na rin po namin natatanggap ang cash grants para sa pag-aaral n’ya. Kay Angelica na lang po ang natatanggap namin,” said Santa.

Though it is hard to accept Andrie’s decision to stop schooling, especially that they are being supported by the government, Santa and her husband, soon welcomed Andrie’s contributions to their finances. Aside from being a big help to his father to lighten the work at sea, they get a bigger share in the day’s catch since they take two shares home.

Still, Santa did not lose hope on their dreams for Andrie. She still convinces him to go back to school. After all, it is with their younger children that they dream big. They want to send them to college for them to get better jobs and better lives. Three of their older children have either finished high school or started working early and started a family of their own.

Another chance for Andrie

Three years after his decision to stop schooling, Andrie is back in school.

In 2017, Andrie was documented as a child laborer in the municipality with the introduction of the DSWD’s Strategic Helpdesks for Information, Education, Livelihood and other Development Interventions (SHIELD) program against child labor.

The program aims to strengthen the capacity of the local government units and establish partnerships with other organizations and sectors in addressing child labor.

The municipality of Catanauan is one of the pilot areas of this program across the country.

A total of 97 child laborers in three barangays (Brgys. 7, San Antonio Pala and Tuhian) of the municipality engaged in fishing, vending, fish drying, coconut and coconut wine harvesting, charcoal making, scavenging and engaging in domestic work are being provided with interventions through the program.

In the implementation of the SHIELD against Child Labor, learning sessions are provided to the parents and the children. The local government also provides educational assistance to the children.

“Itinuro sa amin na ang mga bata pala, hindi dapat pinagtatrabaho. Ito ay labag sa batas at maaari kaming mga magulang na makasuhan,” shared Santa, who realized their responsibilities as a parent and understood more the rights of their children, especially Andrie.

In June 2017, Andrie enrolled back in Grade 4 in Catanauan Central School at age 14. Though older than his classmates and her younger sister a grade higher than him, Andrie remains committed to stay in school.

“Natutunan ko po na ang mga bata ay dapat nag-aaral at hindi nagtatrabaho lalo na kung wala pa sa edad. Sinabi din po nina Mama na dapat mag-aral ako para makakuha ng mas magandang trabaho,” shared Andrie.

For him, he makes the most of his time when he is in school. He is even awarded the best in class and best in Mathematics. He is also recognized for being courteous and helpful.

“Masaya po ako na nakapag-aaral na ako ulit. Masaya po sa school dahil marami akong natutunan at marami din po akong kaibigan. Nakakapaglaro din po kami,” shared Andrie happily.

Better chances for the family

Early this year, the family received a livelihood assistance from the program.

“Ginamit po namin itong puhunan para sa pagtutuyo. Ngayon po ay may regular na kaming kita pangsuporta sa lahat ng aming mga anak. Nakakaipon na rin po kami, katunayan ay nakabili na kami ng sariling lambat,” shared Santa, who added that they are now saving up to buy their own boat.

Now that Santa is able to help her husband with the finances, the family becomes more positive of a better life.

“Kinakaya po naming mag-asawa na mapagtapos ang mga bata. Unti-unti ay nagtatabi kami para tuloy-tuloy ang kanilang pag-aaral,” she shared.

Andrie, now 15, is all smiles hearing this.

“Yung dating buhay ko po ay mahirap, malungkot, mapagod. Pero ngayon po, masaya, masayang nakakapaglaro, nakakapag-aral,” he shared.

As he looks into the sea where he used to spend most of his time working, Andrie now sees it as an inspiration.

“Mag-aaral po akong mabuti para maging isang pulis at para maiahon ko ang pamilya ko mula sa kahirapan,” said Andrie, promising never to go back to his old life.

These coming days, he’ll wake up early again. Vacation is over, and he is now in Grade 6.#

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