The Gift of Education

Parents and families all over the world make personal and financial sacrifices to ensure that their children receive the best education they can afford. Mine did. And, if you’re able to read this article, then I guess someone made sacrifices to make education a possibility for you too.

I was reminded of the ‘gift’ of education and the sacrifice parents make after meeting with a group of mothers in a small coastal fishing community on Panay Island in the Philippines. Mother’s who see education as a priority, “a treasure” to give to their children and a means to provide them with “rest from poverty”.

In the coastal community where Regina, Violy, Nida and Gina live, fishing and fish vending are the most common forms of livelihood. Men work hard to catch and sell fish to provide for their families, sometimes spending up to three nights out at sea before returning to shore. Women work hard to support their husbands, preparing the fish to be sold in nearby towns.

Each of the women and their husbands dedicate almost 70 percent of their monthly income toward ensuring their daughters and sons attend school and receive an education. They do not want their children to struggle as they have.

“Providing education for my children is very important, because maybe someday, when they finish their studies, maybe they can rest from the poverty”, Regina said.

Although public education is provided for free in the Philippines, essential needs such as travel to and from school, food and clothing/uniforms remain an expense for individual families to cover. For Nida, education is a gift she can give to her family.

“That’s the only treasure that I can give to my children”, she said, “not in money, but in giving education.”

When the unrelenting winds and heavy rains of super typhoon Haiyan swept through their community on 8 November 2013, it caused significant damage to each families fishing boats and nets, leaving their source of income for the education of their children smashed and worthless on the shores. Each family continues to live with a decreased income, as they cannot afford the cost of boat repairs, instead finding what work they can to earn for the family. Yet, even in the face of these challenges, their children’s education remains a priority for each of these mothers and, together with their husbands, they continue to sacrifice to ensure their children go to school.

In May 2014, Violy, Regina, Nida and Gina and their families became beneficiaries of ADRA Philippines Livelihood Recovery program. Each of their husbands will soon be able to provide for their families again and return to fishing on the seas in new boats and fishing gear provided by ADRA Philippines. Funding from the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development International Humanitarian Assistance (DFATD-IHA) and ADRA Canada enables ADRA PH to provide 2,000 vulnerable families and households on Panay Island with much needed livelihood recovery assistance and 4,000 households with shelter recovery assistance.