Each rainy season, the children of the barangay (small village) Darul-Akram in Languyan, Tawi-Tawi have a decision to make. For half the year, the path to school is blocked by a rushing, crocodile-infested river. To reach the school, children would have to cross the 60- to 100-meter wide river on rickety boats, risking their lives. Because of the perilous journey to reach school, many parents would force their children to stay home. The result of that decision is high dropout rates and a large population of children who never completed basic education. Regretfully, that was the norm. Each rainy season, parents would keep their children at home. However, everything changed with Vincent Durie’s “Boat of Knowledge.”
Creation, Concept and Impact of the “Boat of Knowledge”
Durie is a fellow of the Bangsamoro Young Leaders Program-Leadership Communities (BYLP-LeadCom). After discussing the safety concerns with both parents and teachers, he developed the “Boat of Knowledge” project. Along with his fellow leader, Tau-Spartan, he secured a grant. With the grant, he purchased a two-engine boat to ferry students to school.
The “Boat of Knowledge” project is two-pronged in its approach. The 30-person boat ferries both middle schools and high school students. It even makes as many as three trips back and forth to make sure that everyone gets to school. Meanwhile, along with ensuring that each student receives an education, the boat provides work for fishermen in the off-season, helping to stimulate the economy of this small village.
Today, 99 percent of students in Darul-Akram are logging regular school hours.
Education in the Philippines
Although the nation has a substantial economy, the education program within the Philippines is heavily underfunded. Education is often hindered by shortages in textbooks and buildings. As a result, only 78 percent of students complete the basic level of education. In fact, fewer complete any secondary level of education. In addition, absenteeism is a major problem. Without any serious structure for evaluating attendance, millions of children do not go to school. Currently, 2.8 million Filipino children are not in school.
The Ayala Foundation: Providing the Spark
Durie’s project is part of the Ayala Foundation, a nonprofit based in the Philippines that seeks to connect the growing business market with communities across the country. Its goal is to create creative, self-reliant and self-sustaining communities all across the Phillippines. To do so, the Ayala Foundation helps to build bridges that connect different sectors of the market, acting as a catalyst for cooperation.
The Ayala Foundation created the initiative BYLP-LeadCom. The initiative seeks to use the energy of Filipino youth to create positive change in communities. One change, for example, is supporting Durie with his “Boat of Knowledge.” Today, BYLP-LeadCom operates in five different provinces across the Philippines.
Certainly, Durie’s “Boat of Knowledge” is simple. However, by providing children an opportunity to gain an education during the rainy season, Durie and the Tau-Spartans have opened a world of possibilities for the children of Darul-Akram.
– Andrew Edwards