Gee Phannie does the ‘Kaya Ko’ sign.

Malita, Davao Occidental -Education is a right, not a privilege. Education is the gateway towards development. With proper education, poverty will hopefully be diminished, if not eradicated.

Nineteen-year old Gee Phannie Coscos believes that a college degree will earn her the ticket to achieving her dreams. Gee Phannie is a fourth year college student at Southern Philippines Agri-business, Marine and Aquatic School of Technology (SPAMAST) in Malita, Davao del Sur. She has been consistently one of the top of her class since elementary and now, she is one of the candidates for Cum Laude at SPAMAST.

Gee Phannie is the eldest of five siblings. Her family resides in Barangay Demoloc, Malita, Davao del Sur. He father Epifanio works as a woodcutter. Her mother, Gemma, is a housewife. The hardship her family is experiencing has been her driving force to finish her studies.

Knowing that her family cannot support her college education, Gee Phannie bravely went to Barangay Poblacion in Malita, a 5-kilometer walk from their barangay. “Miadto kog poblacion, naningkamot ko og akoa. Miadto ko sa City Hall kay naa may ginahatag nga ‘Tulong Dunong’ scholarship si Mayor. Gipasayaw ug gipakanta ko nila og ‘Kaulo’, gihimo pud nako. Gibuhat nako ang tanan aron makakuha ko og scholarship kay gusto jud ko moeskwela (I went to Poblacion, I had to do it. I went to the City Hall because our Mayor is offering a college scholarship tagged as ‘Tulong Dunong’. They ask me to sing and dance in ‘Kaulo’ [main tribe in Malita], I obliged. I did everything to get that scholarship because I really wanted to go to college,” Gee Phannie recounted.

She became a ‘Tulong Dunong’ scholar for two years in college. To make both ends meet, she worked as  househelp at her uncle’s home. She also applied for a summer job at the Department of Labor and Employment as surveyor.

When she heard about the Expanded Students’ Grant-in-aid for Poverty Alleviation (ESGP-PA) for Pantawid Pamilya beneficiaries, she got excited. “Nalipay ko pagkahibalo nako aning ESGP-PA. Nindot kaayo iya gina-offer nga benefits ug dako kaayo kini’g matabang sa akoang pag-eskwela. Nakahinumdom ko atong panahon nga pagkabalo nako nga nakasulod nako sa ESGP-PA, gahilak ko sa kalipay samtang nagareport sa klase (I was ecstatic when I heard about ESGP-PA. The benefits which the scholarship offers will really help me in my studies. I remember when I learned that I got into ESGP-PA, I cried because of happiness while I was reporting in class).”

Gee Phannie enjoys being an ESGP-PA scholar. She excels in her studies and extra-curricular activities. Despite her rather hectic schedule, Gee Phannie also finds time to earn to augment her finances. “Naa koy mga sidelines, gabaligya ko’g pagkaon sa classroom. At least naa ko’y P 30.00 nga ginansya kada-adlaw. Naga tutor pud ko, ang one hour kay P 50.00 pesos. Nangapply pud ko sauna sa isa ka gamay nga restaurant sa poblacion diin makasweldo ko’g P 200.00 kada 24 ka kanta (I have side-jobs, I sell food in our classroom. At least I have P 30.00 profit per day. I also tutor after class, I earn P 50.00 for an hour. I also applied once in a small restaurant in poblacion where I earned P 200.00 for every 24 songs).”

Grabe akoang pasalamat sa Pantawid Pamilya. Tungod ani na program naka-eskwela mi sa akoang mga igsoon, nakahuman ko’g high school ug nakasulod pa gyud ko’g college. Walay kabutngan akoang pasalamat sa programa (I am overwhelmed with gratitude for Pantawid Pamilya. Because of this program my siblings and I were able to go to school, I was able to finish high school and got to college. My heart is overflowing with gratefulness for the program)”, Gee Phannie tearfully shared.

Gee Phannie offers her achievements to the program. When asked what she wants to do when she graduates: “Gusto ko mag-masteral ug maka proceed og doctorate. Gusto nako mapahuman akoang mga igsuon, makabalay ug matagaa’g gamay nga negosyo akoang ginikanan. (I want to take up a master’s degree and hopefully proceed to doctorate. I want all my siblings to finish school and provide a new house and a small business to my parents).”

At present, there are 2,029 grantees under ESGP-PA in the entire Davao Region.

The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) spearheaded the then SGPPA in 2012.

ESGP-PA ensures that the grantees are enrolled in selected SUCs (State Universities and Colleges) duly recognized by CHED, channeled to CHED priority courses and be extended the needed support that will guarantee completion of studies thus qualify them for a high-value added jobs in the future.

Selection of potential ESGP-PA scholars uses the parameter of one beneficiary per Pantawid household. This number is proportioned to the number of households and the area coverage per municipality.

Potential scholars must be 16-20 years old and must be willing and interested to become a student beneficiary. Moreover, an upcoming student grantee must pass the entrance examination set by the respective SUC. However, in cases that the number of potential beneficiaries exceeds the allocated slots, grade requirement is applied. Students belonging to the upper 20% of the graduating class will be prioritized.

A student-grantee receives a maximum of P 60,000.00 scholarship grant per school year or P 30,000.00 per semester. This is broken down to P 20, 000.00/year Tuition Fee Cost, P 5,000.00/year Textbook Fees and other learning materials and P 35,000.00 (that is, P 3,500/month x 10 months) stipend (for board and lodging, transportation, clothing, health/medical needs, basic school supplies and other related costs). (DSWD)