Poverty and Suli

Here are just some thoughts I wanted to get down in this post about poverty and its causes.

I have always thought that people in poverty need a chance to get better education and from this they would be able to move on to a better or more profitable job, thus able to lift themselves and their family out of the poverty trap they find themselves in. Now, however, I feel that the layers that make up this ‘trap’ are more intricate and numerous than I had originally perceived.

I have heard of a few stories about people offering to pay for tuition fees for Filipinos who had to drop out of school because they didn’t have the funds to continue, or because they needed to start working in order to make money to support their parents and other siblings. In many cases, even if the young Filipino wants to go to school and be educated they may not be able to, even if they have the cash they need for tuition, clothes and books sitting in their hands. The main reason that this may be the case is that they need to provide for the family and working full time in school doesn’t bring home any food for several years as you need to graduate before you can get the higher paying jobs. So the short term need outweighs the long term benefit and school is sacrificed. I have heard that in some cases parents forbid their children to go to school even if all the costs are covered.

A secondary effect of this is that further education and vocational courses often require a minimum of high school diploma or passing various subjects at college level. Indeed, in the Philippines only 50 odd percent of students make it out of elementary school with a pass. So, any hope of doing a course later in life is crushed as people don’t have the necessary qualifications in the first place. Therefore the poorest keep the worst paid and most difficult jobs. Later in life maybe they will have some children and because they have struggled on the poverty line for so long, when there is an opportunity to have an extra family member work it is pounced upon, rather than encourage that family member to finish school. The trap is maintained, its grip firm.

Education is the ultimate key to the problem, of that I am sure. But there are these layers that mean that simply donating money to a cause, even an educational cause, may not mean that the people who we think we are helping actually receive any benefit at all. It’s a tricky one.

I wrote a short story based around poverty. Its called ‘Suli’ and is in the short stories section of the blog, give it a read!

This is a Badjao man begging for money beside a passenger boat bound for another island. The Badjao are people who live on boats at sea, sometimes for years at a time without seeing any land. They have recently been displaced from their areas by fighting and poverty and many of them get money by begging. People throw coins into the water and the Badjao dive down to get them. It was one of the saddest things I have seen out here. A man of a once proud people who lived in harmony with the oceans, now destined to dive for coins and live in shanties by the polluted port.


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