Group goes hi-tech in teaching streetkids

NON-GOVERNMENT group Lingap Pangkabataan Inc. has gone high-tech with its work among the urban streetchildren, whom Unicef estimates to have more than doubled from an estimated 50,000 in 2002.

Lingap launched on Tuesday its mobile education van retrofitted with two computers and a wireless Internet connection that would tour five communities in Quezon City.

The van, which cost more than P1 million, helps us go to streetchildren than have them go to us, which in our experience was very difficult to do, according to Lingap staff Cathyrine Eder.

Eder said that before the van, children must go to the group’s center in Cubao to study alternative learning sessions, which is equivalent to finishing elementary or high school.

“Though we give them transportation allowance, they tend to latch on the back of jeepneys, which is dangerous, or they skip class.”

According to Eder, these are just some of the reasons the children cite why they withdrew from schools.

Jesus S. Far of the United Nations Children’s Fund added that aside from poverty, most streetchildren drop out from schools because they feel safer on the streets –or were born there.

Streetchildren, Far said, are either escaping physical or sexual abuse and exploitation in their families or have made the streets their homes since they were born.

He noted that the latest data posts streetchildren at 250,000 in major cities nationwide.

“They can only have three possible scenarios: get jailed, be killed, or commit a crime. If their parents are incapable of giving them protection and nurture them, somebody should.”

Lingap is one of seven NGOs that Unicef has been helping to attend to streetchildren. It will pilot the mobile education van that Far said Unicef hopes to replicate in other cities outside Metro Manila.

Far said the Unicef shelled out P1.4 million for this project. Private companies Sony Ericsson and Ericsson Telecommunications Inc. provided P0.5 million each for the van.

Eder said that having this kind of technology and mobility would hopefully make the kids more focused on learning rather than solely on surviving the harsh conditions of living in the streets.

The van, she said, will stop by one community for a day to teach streetchildren for three hours.

Acording to Far, Lingap teachers will teach basic life skills like how to say No, the different types of touch, how to solve problems, and decision-making processes.

Most of the materials, Eder said, would be downloaded and available on the Internet and would use computer games.

Lingap, a nonprofit organization established in 1981, saw its cash assets decline by 34.54 percent in 2008 from P4.8 million in 2007, its latest report to the Securities and Exchange Commission said.

[Original story submitted to BusinessMirror newspaper on April 20, 2010. Copyright 2010 © BusinessMirror]

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