Life’s paintbrush paint our canvas with beauty in every stroke, at times a little too fast, in order for us to see the grandeur in every aspect of ourselves, albeit somewhat trivial and nonsensical. Hardly ever noticed, but never out of relevance, the things we take for granted are far for the most part, the ones that move us the most in their absence. While we have no predetermined obligation towards them, to bask in their life will reveal the realities of what it’s like to receive the stroke of bent brush.
In a world where education is universally believed to be the key to prosperity, everyday is a perpetual tug-of-war for young individuals that have made the difficult choice of halting their education for reasons outside their capacity to decide on their own. Some out-of-school youth have dropped out for “self-admittedly” naive reasons; while for others, that decision was never really their choice to make, having been already made for them. Two out-of school youths bravely share their stories to show the immense sacrifice, endured hardships and continued struggles as teens who opted for a life outside education.
Two sides of the same coin
For teenagers Maricel and Rominic, poverty, family and self-sacrifice were the common denominators between many of their experiences as out-of-school youth. Both Maricel and Rominic did have formal education before it was cut short by family troubles. Maricel was only in Grade 5 when she dropped of school.
“My family could not afford to send all of [the] children to school. So, I dropped out of school and sacrificed my education so the rest of my siblings had a chance to finish theirs. I felt disappointed and hurt, but I knew i had choice.”
Despite having a childhood dream to study criminology and eventually serve the country, Maricel currently works as a helper in a household after several stints in other odd jobs.
“I also had a brief stint as a construction worker and as a vendor,” she shares. A young mother herself admits that she deeply regrets that she was never able to finish school and although she yearns to go back, she admits that her current situation bars her from it. “I have child now and I have to work to pay for his expenses,” she explains. “Looking back, I deeply regret wasting the opportunities that an education could have given me. I gave up my chance to finish my education so my siblings could have their chance.”
Rominic also had to halt her education due her family’s inability to make ends meet. Saddened that she had to stop her education by her third year in high school, Rominic says, “I grew up in a troubled family, and our family difficulties made it hard for to continue studying.” Rominic conceived at the age of 16 and currently has a four-month-old baby boy—the biggest factor preventing her from returning to school. “I don’t have a job and I just stay at home to care for my baby,” she shares.
For Rominic, because of poverty wasn’t the sole reason for dropping out of school, rather her troublesome family situation, she expressed surprising satisfaction despite her current condition. “I don’t [regret dropping out]. My life is hard, but at least it is simple and uncomplicated.”
Nowhere but up
The stories of Maricel and Rominic tell just two of the millions of stories regarding out-of-school youths in the Philippines. From the tindera in the local sari-sari store, to lonely child selling sampaguita on the doorsteps of crowded churches, the Philippines is in no shortage of these young individuals. Most of them were ill-prepared for the hardships that life outside school had brought them, just immediately thrown into the real world mostly unprepared and undeserving.
When asked what they wished someone have told them before deciding to drop out of school, Maricel and Rominic’s answers were almost identical. Maricel shares, “I wish someone told me to keep studying in school.” Rominic agreed with this sentiment. “I wish someone told that it was possible to be a working student.”
While the days in which they were young and wide-eyed are behind them. Maricel and Rominic still hold their experiences in school close to their heart. “I think [school] is the most important part of one’s life,” Maricel says. “To leam something is to succeed in life.”
Now all they could is pick themselves up, dust themselves off, learn from their past mistakes, and keep moving forward. Rominic and Maricel have chosen to go down the road less travelled and while the road in the Philippines is quite downtrodden, there is no turning back or retracing steps. For the million of youth like them, their lives will go, bent but not broken.