By Jane Bautista, Inquirer News
Financial difficulties have long hindered the youth especially in poor communities from getting proper college education. While tuition is free in state universities, they do not have the money to cover incidental expenses such as for transportation and meals.
Thus was born the “Education on Wheels” (EOW) project of the state-run Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP), whose concept came from a phrase in English philosopher Francis Bacon’s Essays: “If the mountain will not come to Muhammad, then Muhammad must go to the mountain.”The extension project, which turned a donated provincial bus into an air-conditioned classroom, aims to bring education nearer to out-of-school youths who cannot afford to pursue their studies in formal institutions.
There are now 60 out-of-school youths from the Smokey Mountain in Tondo, Manila, enrolled in the four-year bachelor of science in office administration degree program of EOW.
Twenty-year-old Hillary Beltran, whose family experienced financial constraints that affected her schooling, could not put into words the excitement she felt when this opportunity to pursue a college degree came right to her doorstep.
“I’m happy … I cannot explain the feeling because the chance (to study for free) is approaching us,” she said during last week’s turnover ceremony of a bus converted into a classroom that will soon be her school for the next four years.
More course offerings
According to PUP president Manuel Muhi, they would offer more programs such as journalism, cooperatives and business management and expand the project to reach other poor communities such as Payatas in Quezon City, if more donors would be willing to give additional buses.
“We’re targeting the out-of-school youth who can’t afford to study due to limited financial resources,” Muhi said, noting that the main challenge of these students was the everyday expenses such as commuting to and from school.
“That’s why we [are] bringing the PUP education right to their doorstep,” he said.
The donated provincial bus was transformed into a small classroom and the normal seats were removed and replaced with chairs and tables facing the windows.
PUP installed a whiteboard and provided laptops and Wi-Fi that the students could use for in-person classes. The laptops and internet were provided by a partner organization, Sandiwaan Center for Learning.
The first semester of the 60 first-year students started last October 2021. However, they are currently doing online classes because of the pandemic.
Muhi said that by October this year, they would experience limited face-to-face classes as the EOW bus would finally be operating by then.
Beltran shared that it would take only a five-minute walk from their house in Smokey Mountain to the mobile classroom, unlike before when she had to spend money for transportation and food to attend school.
Beltran expressed confidence that she, along with her classmates in the EOW, would finish their studies.
“We see ourselves finishing our course because we were already provided with the opportunity and we won’t let go of it,” she said. INQ