• Over 1,000 street children completed the pushcart classroom program in Metro Manila
  • The program was implemented on a bigger scale by DepEd with CNN Hero of the Year 2009 awardee, Efren Penaflorida
  • The program has recently been recognized by UNESCO as one of the good practices of education-for-all in Asia

As early as 2007, a nongovernmental organization called Dynamic Teen Company, launched pushcart classrooms on the streets of Cavite. Five years after, the Department of Education (DepEd), partnered with 2009 CNN Hero of the Year award Efren Penaflorida to implement the pushcart classroom model on a bigger scale. It is now being implemented to help children on the streets get an education.

Late last week, over 1,000 children from various parts of Metro Manila completed the mobile classroom program. More than half of these children are now enrolled in regular classrooms.

“I appreciate (the program) because children learn something. It’s fun,” 9-year-old Baby Boy Abante, one of the children who finished the program, told Kyodo News.

Abante had a difficult time attending school before because he had to stay home while his mother worked. Recently, he got enrolled in a public elementary school in Manila after passing the assessment based on his participation in the pushcart school program. He is now fit to be in the Grade 4 level.

Elena Lopez, a public school teacher, told Kyodo News that the lack of required, official documents like a birth certificate and interest among parents to find a school for their children are some of the top reasons why thousands of children are out of school in Manila

“The objective is really to look for children aged 5 to 14 who are not in school, either because they didn’t enroll from the start or because they’ve dropped out. So, we use the pushcart classroom approach to bridge them to bring the children back to school,” Mario Deriquito, the DepEd’s Undersecretary, said.

“Our purpose for the pushcart classroom is to encourage children to love studying and bring them back to schools. Instead of lingering in the streets, where bad influences proliferate, we want them back in school to finish their studies,” Penaflorida told members of the media.

The mobile classrooms are manned and facilitated by licensed teachers and trained volunteers. They are equipped with graphic charts, books and other educational materials. They also include first aid kids sponsored by organizations and companies that support the program. The program provides free notebooks and pens to participating children, including snacks or meals.

“In the pushcart classroom, we make it very interesting (for the children). There are games and storytelling so that children are then encouraged to go back to school,” Deriquito said.

Penaflorida said there are currently 83 pushcart schools across the country. This is on top of the ones set up by the DepEd. Pushcart classrooms are now also present in the cities of Bacolod and Cebu, thanks to the initiative of other organizations.

The program was also implemented in the Leyte province after the horrific Super Typhoon Haiyan struck in November 2013.

“Recently, UNESCO recognized our program as one of the good practices for education-for-all in the whole Asia-Pacific. And by next month, the program will be replicated with UNESCO and we’re targeting 16,000 out-of-school youth and children in the Philippines,” Penaflorida stated.

The DepEd is now taking steps to institutionalize the program and allocate a budget for it. Their goal is to establish 110 pushcart classrooms all over Metro Manila.