Do you remember the first time you visited a library?
While some of us find libraries boring, some kids are yet to set foot inside one.
In the city, most children only learn of mountains, rivers, and the country’s rich biodiversity through books.
Meanwhile, in other parts of the Philippines, kids are learning directly from nature. After all, they live right next to such majestic rivers and mountains.
For these kids, every day is an adventure. Going to school means a trek through muddy slopes, and going home is a race against sundown.
Although many of these children are adventurers, there are still several places they cannot explore. These are the worlds and wonders only reachable through books.
And books are something these children only dream of.
Wishing for a library
Somewhere in the foothills of Mt. Apo hides a small school.
Not far from the school are waterfalls, lakes, and woodlands – all untouched by bulldozers and greedy hands.
In this school, all but two students are indigenous children. Their parents mostly work as farmhands, earning just enough to survive day after day.
Ironic how Filipino farmers are responsible for feeding the nation, yet they struggle to provide for their own families.
Indigenous communities are among the poorest sectors in the Philippines.
Despite financial troubles, however, many indigenous families strive to send their kids to school. These parents believe that education could help their children live lives better than their own.
Among them is Edwin, a 9-year-old Manobo boy who is now in second grade.
At first glance, one might guess that Edwin is only 5 or 6 years old. His delicate frame, meek and broken sentences seem to belong to a younger child.
The little boy, however, has big dreams. “I want to be a maestro someday,” he said in his mother tongue, grinning from ear to ear.
Edwin loves reading Filipino stories, and he could be reading more books by now if only he had access to a real library.
With only a few old textbooks available at school, Edwin has practically run out of stories to read.
“I want our school to have a room full of books,” he wished.
Let kids be kids
Aside from the lack of updated books and learning materials, another threat to children’s education is extreme poverty.
“Some indigenous children are vulnerable to child labor,” said Jabi Vargas of Save the Children’s Mindanao office.
“Especially in those areas where [sugarcane] plantations are common,” he added.
These children end up skipping classes or ultimately dropping out of school, Vargas explained. At worst, they engage in dangerous jobs – harming their physical, emotion, and mental health.
“Some indigenous boys still engage in child labor,” Vargas observed. “Meanwhile, if the indigenous girls cannot work, they resort to early marriages.”
We at Save the Children want kids to be kids. We want them to enjoy their childhood.
Our top priority is to ensure that children stay in school – so they can learn, explore, and discover who they are and who they can be in the future.
We don’t want to put limits to children’s dreams. Together, let’s get rid of child poverty – for good.
Our first step doesn’t have to be grand in scale. We can start with books.
Help us provide indigenous children like Edwin with more opportunities to learn. Your simple donation could change the lives of several children starting today!