Iskolar ng Bataan has been a charm for families in the seaside province of valor. That the name of Bataan’s scholarship program has become a common household term is a testament of how prolific its mission has been: To produce one scholar in every family.
Initially starting as a scholarship grant in 1995 instituted by the late Bataan Governor and Congressman Enrique “Tet” Garcia Jr., the program was formally launched as Iskolar ng Bataan in 2004, and now, it has helped about 85,000 scholars composed of college students, teachers, and members of indigenous communities like Aetas. Both the provincial government of Bataan and the city government of Balanga pool funds into this program, making Iskolar ng Bataan one of the largest scholarship programs in the Philippines.
One of the many success stories that the program has notched is the recent feat of Gianna Kalilah T. Roman, the top 2 in the June 2016 Nursing Licensure Examination. Roman shares the life of any other college student who travels far every day to school. From Hermosa town, she took daily long trips going to Bataan Peninsula State University located in Balanga City. She became part of the scholarship program in 2012 as a freshman and was able to maintain her grades until she finished four years after.
Roman received P3,000 every semester as a student. On top of that, with her grades outstanding, she was able to crack into the top 30 scholars per municipality which incentivized another P3,000 per scholar. What’s better, Governor Albert Garcia has increased the grant received by students from P3,000 to P4,000 per semester since last year. Scholars living in Balanga City are more fortunate as they receive P6,000 every semester due to additional funds from the city government.
According to Iskolar ng Bataan program head Cris Garcia, their mission of making one scholar in every Bataeño family has evolved given the vast funding support of the provincial and city governments. Now, there are two or more scholars in every family.
The impressive academic thrust of the local government units in Bataan contributes to the Philippine’s share on realizing United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal #4, that is to ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning. Under this goal, Bataan province is winning the target that by 2020, the number of scholarships available to developing countries must be substantially expanded.
That education is a solution and the youth as good investment are the ingrained mindset of Bataan policymakers who revolve their programs around improving local education system. This is a case worth emulating by other local government units for the people see and feel that their taxes are working for them. Despite the abolition of the Priority Development Assistance Fund, which for many localities was the source of scholarship funds, the Iskolar ng Bataan program has survived, and even expanded, through continuous strategic partnerships and backing of Bataan leaders.
Given the opportunity to work in one of the hospitals in Bataan, Roman pledged to deliver quality health care service to the patients, thereby helping the province achieve its vision of attaining top-level human development index in the Philippines by year 2020. Her contribution to the growth of Bataan starts with the personal statement of giving quality service back to the people who paid for her college study through their hard-earned taxes. (PIA)