THE DEPARTMENT of Education-Western Visayas (DepEd-6) is looking into piloting a program in Antique that will allow secondary school students to study and earn a living at the same time. “Obra Eskwela is my concept which would include livelihood and convergence among agencies. Through my concept, the students learn and at the same time they work through our alternative learning system (ALS),” said DepEd-6 Assistant Director Victor G. De Gracia. The Regional Development Council (RDC) recently reported that the dropout rate in Western Visayas has surged to 48.54% among secondary level students, and 0.5% in the elementary level. “Lack of personal interest and financial difficulties are some of the cited reasons for the dropout rates. Even if education is practically free for all, parents are continuously confronted with daily expenses for fares, baon (pocket money), food, school, projects, among others,” Antique Governor Rhodora J. Cadiao, the RDC chairman, said in her State of the Region Address last June 21. “Livelihood is the main concern in which if we can address it, we can also improve the attendance in high school,” Mr. De Gracia said. The Obra Eskwela, he explained, could be tied with existing livelihood programs of various agencies. “Our modules are very flexible and can be adjusted to the existing livelihood programs like in Antique, the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) has a Tupad Program and we can target the out-of-school youth to do a project where DoLE will provide the labor and DepEd will be in charge of their education through our modules in the ALS,” he said. The DepEd official also stressed that parents should support the education of their children. “Parents are really important because they should follow up their children at home. Teachers should also reach out to the parents for them to be aware of the situation of the children,” he said. — Emme Rose S. Santiagudo