The Situation of Filipino Children and Young People

Almost half of the population in the Philippines are children. With a fast population growth a year, the government has a difficult task in providing children with enough resources to ensure their rights. For many adults and children, a 15-year-old who bears a child willingly or unwillingly ceases to be a girl-child but a young mother. An 11-year-old who takes on the task of tilling the ?elds ceases to be a boy but a labouring farmhand. A 16-year-old who spends most of his time at a wage-factory ceases to be a young adolescent but a breadwinner.

A 9-year-old girl made to peddle her body on the streets becomes a commodity. An 8-year-old boy on the street stealing someone’s money for food is a criminal. Boys and girls loitering in the streets sniffing rugby are considered dregs of society. Seldom are their situations seen in the context of poverty and lack of parental guidance and societal responsibility. As dictated by social practice, a child may be considered an adult when he or she becomes part of social production and reproduction, or when the child performs responsibilities such as making a living or having his or her own family.

While children are not distinguished simply by chronological age, physical and psychological development identifies an age range that sets a general definition of who are children, that is, (also as de?ned by law) individuals below 18 years old. On the other hand, different socio-cultural contexts characterize children and their childhoods. Children have become more vulnerable as they give in to their families’ insecurities, society’s inadequacies and social exclusion as the marginalisation of the poor heightens.

Despite the circumstances they find themselves in, children, youth, and young people are still developing individuals who have particular needs and rights. They have both vulnerabilities and competencies. They are not simply “adults-to-be” who need to be moulded or “just children” who are to be taken for granted. Children are social actors and can be active participants in social change. The Philippines is making significant progress in the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Still, poverty coupled with political violence pose serious challenges to children.

The total number of poor Filipino families is estimated at 4. 7 million. The fast-growing population and the failure of household incomes to rise as fast as commodity prices have resulted in more poor Filipino families. Poor refers to those whose incomes fall below the threshold determined by the government, or those who cannot afford to provide in a sustained manner for their minimum basic needs for food, health, education, housing and other social amenities in life. In the Philippines, children who are victims of violence are categorized as children needing special protection (CNSP).

CNSP includes child labour; children-victims of sexual abuse and commercial sexual exploitation; abandoned and neglected or children without primary caregivers; children of indigenous cultural groups; child-victims of disasters; children in situations of armed conflict; street children; and, children in conflict with the law. Violence against Filipino children are committed through physical and psychological abuse/deprivation that manifest in the worst forms of child labour, child prostitution, begging in the streets, abandonment, trafficking and /or recruitment as soldiers or couriers in areas of armed conflict.

Most instances or forms of violence against Filipino children are attributed to poverty. The increasing reported cases of violence against children are the social manifestations of a long history of poverty, characterized by a chronic or cyclical condition of deprivation of basic services that include basic education, health and nutrition services, livelihood or employment opportunities, durable housing and clothing. Poverty has affected several generations of a lot of Filipino

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families that has resulted in inadequate parental capabilities, strained family relationship and corrupted values.

Children are products of their environments. Their situation mirrors the realities of their families, community and society. While the Filipino family puts much premium on the welfare of its children, families are increasingly breaking down in the midst of the struggle for survival. In the process, children are inadvertently sacrificed. The paragraphs on the next pages are studies of the situation of Filipino children and young people. Poverty and Luck of Education If you have an education, you won’t go hungry and you live with comforts of a house. You are living a good life. There is Michelle 16 year olds.

She lives in Payatas. Life is hard in a garbage town. At such young age children collect and sell garbage. Despite the danger they are forced to work. Many have had accidents and died. When typhoon Ketsana came, her house was destroyed. Her mom lost her job. With no house and no money for food, Michelle and her siblings could not go to school anymore. Twelve-year-old Marian is one of the millions of Filipino children whose education has taken a backseat due to poverty. The fifth of eight children, she fled her home when she was 10 because she said her jobless parents hurt her.

Marian is supposed to be in the sixth grade this year, but she’s currently enrolled as a Grade 1 pupil, learning basic language lessons and math skills in a public elementary school in Cainta, Rizal. A certain “Ate Rowena” took her in and convinced her to go back to school. Marian has to face challenges in school. “Other children tease me because I’m still in Grade 1…but I don’t mind them because this is my chance to continue and finish my studies”, she said. Despite the challenges, Marian is lucky compare to thousands of other Filipino children.

Education is a right, however today; 121 million people cannot go to school because of poverty. The poor would choose to feed the body instead of feeding the mind. They would choose to work in jobs before working for a better future in school. Poverty has deprived them from their right to education. Billions of children are experiencing the nightmare of poverty. What does the future hold for them, and for the whole world? Poverty, hungers prevent Filipino kids from getting basic education. Despite the annual increase in the budget for basic education, fewer children are enrolling in schools.

Poverty is one of the main causes of the country’s poor education record and has affected participation in education in more ways than one. Lack of personal interest came in second at 22 percent, while the high cost of education came in a close third at 19. 9 percent. Other reasons include, among others, housekeeping, illness or disability, failure to cope with school work, and distance from school. The lack of interest among school children indicates a weakness on the part of the school system to make education interesting for the students.

This may be due to poor teaching quality, inadequate facilities and supplies and poor infrastructure. Poverty, social exclusion, school distance and poor health care, are factors that weigh heavily on children and dampen their interest to pursue schooling. The challenge, therefore, is how to make the school interesting and encouraging rather than intimidating; how to make it inclusive, non-discriminatory and poor-sensitive rather than exclusive and elite-oriented; and how to make it accommodating rather than restricting.

Finally, the education content, process and experience should be made more meaningful to the children’s life experiences by ensuring appropriate, culture-sensitive and values-based interventions. The Education department said hunger and malnutrition are also barriers to participation in education. DepEd started implementing the Food for School Program under the Accelerated Hunger Mitigation Plan. It was done with the Health, Social Welfare departments, the National Food Authority and local government units. As a motivation to go to school, it sends the wrong message to poor children: go to school to get one kilo of rice instead of the value of learning; it is also an added burden for children as poor parents encourage their children to attend classes to be able to avail of the daily ration”. Street Children There is an estimated 1. 5 million street children in the Philippines. They survive each day by begging, selling or by taking drugs. Would you care to give them a future? The country has a high number of street children.

Street children are susceptible to malnutrition, vehicular accidents, injuries illnesses, drug or substance abuse, sexual exploitation, gambling and harassment by police or other extortionists. They also tend to join gangs as a form of protection. A lot of children are also involved in drug trading in their communities by serving as runners, lookouts, barkers or by doing repacking and cleaning up of paraphernalia. Drug pushers prefer to hire children, because they are obedient and not easily detected. Cebu City is a booming centre of trade and tourism in the Visayan region of the Philippines.

In Cebu City alone, it was estimated that about 1,300 children were engaged in such activities. Respondents in the said study entitled “Children’s Involvement in the Production, Sales and Trafficking of Drugs in Cebu City” reported that their environment was conducive for their involvement in drug trading particularly since their barangay officials were also involved in said illegal activities. The need for money was the major reason that drove them to work in drug trading. Most of the children-respondents were drug users themselves and about one-third of them had parents also involved in drug trading.

Some children got physically or verbally abused both by the drug leader and law. Street children are generally thin, untidy, undernourished, and hardly equipped to survive the hazards of everyday living and working on the streets. Some of the hazards they face include sickness, physical injuries from motor accidents, street fights, harassment from extortionists and police, sexual exploitation by pedophiles and pimps, exposure to substance abuse and sexually transmitted diseases. The most common substances street children used are inhalants, such as solvents, rugby and cough syrups, followed by marijuana and shabu.

Marijuana and shabu in particular are shared with friends whenever one of the groups has enough money to buy them. Some street children take drugs as often as once a day. Malnourishment More than half million Pinoy kids suffer from severe malnutrition. The next generation of Filipinos will probably be shorter and lighter if the incidence of malnutrition in the country remains unchecked. According to the latest study by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute, three in every 10 Filipino children aged 5 and below are stunted or too short for their age while two in every 10 children also in the same age range are underweight.

Four million Filipino children are malnourished and the number is expected to grow. FNRI revealed that the prevalence of malnutrition is highest in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, the Zamboanga Peninsula, Southern Tagalog, Southern Mindanao, and Eastern Visayas regions, where up to one-third of children under the age of 10 are either underweight or short for their age. But malnutrition is not just prevalent in rural regions, FNRI said. In Metro Manila, 4 out of every 100 children are underweight and two out of every 100 preschoolers are overweight. Increasing food prices would only worsen the malnutrition in the country.

UNICEF demonstrates that the underlying causes of malnutrition are multifaceted, including economic, social, and political factors. Poverty is recognized as both a cause and consequence of malnutrition. Child Trafficking Human trafficking is a serious problem in the Philippines. Aside from being a source country for human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation, it is also a transit and destination country. Between 60 000 and 100 000 children are trafficked annually, most of them girls. Children are recruited by agents from poor families in rural areas, who send their daughters to the city to earn money.

The Philippines has a serious trafficking problem of children illegally recruited into the tourist industry for sexual exploitation. Destinations within the country are Metro Manila, Angeles City, Olongapo City, towns in Bulacan, Batangas, Cebu City, Davao and Cagayan de Oro City and other sex tourist resorts such as Puerto Galera, which is notorious, Pagsanjan, Laguna, San Fernando Pampanga, and many beach resorts throughout the country. The promise of recruiters offers the parents and children attractive jobs in the country or abroad, and instead they are persuade and forced and controlled into the sex industry for tourists.

Child Abuse Over 200,000 Filipino children have experienced abuse. The DSWD classifies child abuse cases as abandoned, neglected, sexually abused, sexually exploited, physically abused/maltreated, victims of child labor, victims of illegal recruitment, victims of child trafficking, victims of armed conflict, and others (emotionally abused, etc. ). The regions with the most number of child abuse cases served are NCR, Central Visayas, Central Luzon, Cagayan Valley, and Zamboanga Peninsula. The reduction in the number of cases served came mainly from Zamboanga Peninsula.

More than half of the child abuse victims are aged 10 to below 18 years old. Revolting is the fact that about one out of four victims is aged below five years old. By category, more than one-half of abused children served by the DSWD have either been abandoned or neglected, comprising the most common cases. Why are they abandoned and/or neglected? Are these innocent children victims of unwanted pregnancies, or of abject poverty? After abandoned/neglected children, sexually abused children are the second most common cases. And despite the Anti-Rape Law of 1997 (Republic Act (RA) No. 353), the most common sexual abuse is rape, followed by incest and acts of lasciviousness. Rape victims are predominantly female. One wonders whether the prohibition under RA 9346 in 2006 of the death penalty originally possible for convicted rape offenders under certain conditions has contributed to this social problem. And quite worrisome is the relatively large number of incest cases, calling attention to the breakdown of the family as a social institution. Does the CWC have a program to address this sensitive social issue? Some victims of child labor are only 5 to below 10 years old.

While child labour—de?ned by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) as the “employment of children below 15 years of age and the employment of those below 18 years in hazardous or deleterious work”– is declared illegal, the government di?erentiate it from child work, which is considered an “acceptable vocation for children. ” In reality though, the distinction is not clear. Even the exemption provided for when parents give consent for their child’s engaging in labour validates the reality that a family’s economic status decides whether or not a child is forced to work.

Victims of paedophilia have been reported in Eastern Visayas, NCR, and MIMAROPA. Most of the sexually-exploited children are either victim of prostitution or of cyber pornography. The child prostitution cases went up slightly. Cyber pornography victims are served in NCR, Central Visayas, Zamboanga Peninsula, and Ilocos Region. And while the absolute number of cyber pornography cases may be small, there could possibly be many more, as is probably the case with child prostitution, who have not sought help from the DSWD.

This should serve as a stern warning about the danger of allowing children unguided access to the Internet. Situation of Education in the Philippines In spite of a constitutional mandate, the budget allocation on education is far lower than required in the Philippines. The impact of economic crisis and the pressures of increasing population are forcing parents to send their wards to overcrowded and ill-equipped public schools. And the school itself is not unusual in a country whose population of 92 million is exploding so fast, and whose education budget is so small, that it cannot find space to teach its children.

More children are also coming into the public schools as the economy tightens and families cannot afford the haven of private schools, with their smaller classes. Many children, lesser classrooms – This school year opened with a nationwide enrolment of millions of students from elementary through high school, almost exactly a million more than in the previous year. Although the government began a classroom-building program, the schools are still classrooms short, according to Juan Miguel Luz, a former under secretary of education who works with the National Institute of Policy Study, which advocates better education policies.

To squeeze in all the students, many classrooms have been divided into two by partitions. Stairwells and corridors have been converted into miniature classrooms. In the capital, Manila, Education Department figures show an average of one toilet for every 143 high school students and one for every 114 elementary school students. At Munoz-Palma High School, some lavatories have been converted into claustrophobic faculty lounges, while the lounges have been put to use as classrooms. “I have 106 students in my class and 90 seats,” said Rico Encinares, 34, a chemistry teacher. Everybody has seats if some of them are absent. But if they all come, there are not enough seats. They have to share seats. ” –Teacher- Missing on quality education – Only about 10% of his students – the truly motivated ones – get a quality education, he said. Individual attention is almost impossible. “I don’t know the names of all my students, even at the end of the school year,” he said. “You only remember the ones who are very noisy or very good. But the silent ones who just sit there listening, you can’t recall their names. -Teacher- Children in conflict The political violence continues to affect children in the country. Local authorities have been involved in death-squad operations targeting children. There are also reports of children being used by government linked paramilitaries and armed opposition. Children, sometimes as young as 11 years old, have been recruited by armed rebel movements, such as the New People’s Army, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, and the Abu Sayyaf Group, to serve as combatants, spies, guards, cooks or medics.

According to 2005 estimates, up to 13 per cent of the armed group MILF’s 10,000 members were children. According to existing studies, usually males between the ages of 11 and 17 who have low educational attainment, mostly reaching only the elementary level. They are usually middle or in-between children in very large low-income families. Various studies have established that many of these children are either on the streets or of the streets when they were apprehended.

While a signi?cant number still live with parents or a relative, they are usually out on the streets to eke out a living or are involved in peer groups or gangs, which are usually associated with vices and illegal activities. Justice The age of criminal responsibility is 9 years. Despite legislative and procedural safeguards put in place in 2006 with the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act, children in detention are imprisoned together with adults in poor detention conditions, increasing the risk of physical or sexual abuse.

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child is alarmed over the increasing reports of cases of child abuse and neglect and the notable deficiencies in domestic legislation as regards penalizing all forms of abuse, neglect and mistreatment, including sexual abuse. This includes alleged cases of sexual abuse of children in the framework of religious institutions. There are also a number of reported cases of torture, inhuman and degrading treatment of children, particularly of children in detention. Many children below the age of 18 are placed with adults in detention.

References:
* http://resourcecentre.savethechildren.se/start/countries/philippines * http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/111257/news/specialreports/poverty-hunger-prevent-filipino-kids-from-getting-basic-education * http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/breakingnews/nation/view/20080705-146662/4M-malnourished-Filipino-children *  http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/232299/more-filipino-children-stunted-due-to-malnutrition#ixzz2YSsYkc6e 

* http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/topstories/topstories/view/20100204-251263/Over-200000-Filipino-children-are-victims-of-abuse-says-group * http://www.nscb.gov.ph/headlines/StatsSpeak/2011/101011_rav.asp * http://www.crin.org/docs/resources/publications/violence.pdf * http://southasia.oneworld.net/archive/globalheadlines/school-education-faces-worst-ever-crisis-in-philippines

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