Saktong Buhay

Saktong Buhay: Sa De-Kalidad na Edukasyon Pinanday” (An adequate life: Molded through Quality Education) is  the Department of Education’s slogan this year for graduating students.

I first saw it when I shot the graduation rites at the Bgy. Maniango Elementary School in Minalin, Pampanga. The graduating students are children of fishermen; they arrived at the inland in their togas riding boats. There was a vibe of optimism on that day, the class’ salutatorian Mialen Isip told me she wanted to be a Teacher and she hoped that none of her classmates would settle on becoming fishermen, like their parents.

There was something wrong looking at DepEd’s slogan as I talked to Mialen. Somehow, her dreams didn’t align with what DepEd wanted for her.

Then I saw this on Facebook:

My senior at the UST Faculty of Arts and Letters, and community leader Ginno Jaralve wrote:

Bakit “saktong buhay” lang ang hangad satin ng Department of Education? Di ba pwedeng “abundant life” o “siksik, liglig at umaapaw? Pakipaliwanag nga ang konteksto please. (Why does the Department of Education just want adequate life for us? Can’t we aim for an abundant life?)

It’s a mediocre vision for the youth, and it is being packaged as practicality, and sold like dreams in an affordable package.

On Television, University ads advertise their ‘enrollment to employment’ scheme. Children who watch those are fed with the notion that there is nothing more to Education than just a vehicle to earn money in the future — a vehicle towards an adequate life, or Saktong Buhay.

And this is not just a mere slogan. This is a policy, enacted into law aka the K-12 Act.

Graduation Maniango Minalin K12 Saktong Buhay Mediocre Vision

The Department’s K-12 curriculum is being presented as a Holistic approach to Education; during the additional 2 years in Senior High School, students will take skills-oriented courses, said to prepare them for the cutthroat world of the labor force.

And what jobs exactly? The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) lists it down: welding, waiter, electrical technician, sales person, merchandiser, plumber, cook, mason.

Take your pick.

But not just that, DepEd and DOLE tell us, there are jobs in BPOs, voice talents mainly, or the booming IT sector and if you’re really lucky, a job abroad.

In a country that has caught the world’s attention by training its people to leave, we are no longer promoting overseas jobs to the parents of our children, now we’re putting our children to school so they can one day leave the country too.

Because that is the way to a Saktong Buhay (adequate life).

The League of Filipino Students (LFS) calls this an Anti Youth, Anti-People and Pro-Capitalist policy.

K-12 Education, they said, is slated to produce workers for low labor with inhumane wages.

The LFS foresees a gloomy future too. That High School students will no longer aspire to go to College, why would they, when their High School Education has already provided them the skills for employment.

In Negros Occidental, DepEd has pioneered a school that provides call center training to High School students. Proud of its project, DepEd Regional Director Mildred Garay told Sun Star, “The pilot project is very promising. On the 12th year, the students will be 18 and they can already be hired as call center agents.”

Why be an Engineer, a Doctor, a Scientist, or an Artist? Saktong Buhay, adequate life, that’s all there is to Education, according to our government.

The Department is no longer interested in grooming students that would become shapers of society, they just want a wholesale of laborers.

Sakto lang, diba?

With an alarming unemployment rate, this doesn’t seem like such a bad idea. Of course we want the underprivileged students to get jobs, and an adequate life may be their dreams come true, but isn’t there another way to give them that other than make it our country’s entire Education policy?

When our government starts to craft its message around adequacy, mediocrity basically, it might as well be taking away children’s right to dream.

I get that not everyone can afford to follow their hearts, but the least we can do is let them know they have that option.

Graduation Maniango Minalin K12 Saktong Buhay Mediocre Vision2

There is an entire generation of students just beginning to figure out what their dreams are, are we telling them: forget wanting to be somebody, just aspire for an adequate life.

There is something out there that we were meant to do, to love and commit to and spend the rest of our lives going crazy over. It will not be a harmonious life; we will fail, but we will try over and over again and when it finally happens, it will be more than just adequate.

It can be the lights of a music stadium, or smudges of paint in your hand, or pencils scattered over the floor, or the sound of a ball touching the floor, the sound of the camera shutter, the smell of flesh in the operating table – whatever it is – we deserve to vie for it.

Life is so imperfect, that having an ‘adequate’ life is not such a bad thing, in fact, not bad at all. But in the torments of living, there are moments of perfection. It comes when you have found your purpose, and your dreams have come true, and survival isn’t of the fittest, it’s of the happiest.

They are moments where success is measured by how genuinely we smile and we thrill in the rush of really loving our profession, and not by the number of zeroes in our paycheck.

Quality Education could lead children to that life, too.

It will require hard work, harder than subjecting them to additional 2 years of “real-life skills training,” it will be the kind of work that’s exhausting and frustrating but at the end of the road, hopefully, a life that is more than just adequate.

A life of fulfillment and of purpose.

We just have to try.

Try to make this a place where children can believe that dreams come true. Because for some of them, they might just do.

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