An enlightening bus ride I’ll never forget
Education is the key to being successful in life. Knowing how to read and know how to write are necessary skills to acquire knowledge. Poverty can be an obstacle. A driving force within a person is a benchmark for changing their life. But if a person is determined in his life to improve, he must do something. There is concern that parents do not care enough about their family or have little determination about the future of their children, simply because they want to. What if education were secondary to the basic necessities of life, food on the table or shelter or clothing? What would be the priority? Here is the story of a young man I met on the bus.
The bus ride
One day I was riding a bus to attend a school meeting for a community outreach program at a nearby location. The distance would take an hour and a half to cover. Occasionally, the bus made stops to unload or take passengers. I noticed that several young people got on the bus and sold food, magazines and drinks. One of them asked me to try their ‘paninda’, that is, a sweet delicacy prepared. As I was reaching for my purse to get money, I thought that this child should be in school and wondered about the responsibility of his parents in the education of their children. At first I was hesitant to buy, but the boy insisted and said, “I have to finish selling things.” He surprised me like he was forcing me to buy. I asked myself: “Do I have the right to refuse or be forced to buy out of pity?” I decided to buy 3 pieces of ‘panucha’, a sweet delicacy made with colored sugar and nuts. I was surprised by his enthusiasm for his struggle to survive. I was not worried about their food, where it came from, and how it was prepared; rather, I was concerned about his dedication to work at his age, despite the many dangers that could befall him on the often busy streets. Since I have more time to talk to him while looking at my watch, I wanted to know more about his life, where he came from, and about his family. I asked him if we could talk. The boy agreed. As the conversation continued, I asked the boy to sit next to me to tell me more about his life story. I paid for the bus fare and enough for him to travel until he got home.
The boy’s story
The boy grew up in a remote area in Tondo, a densely populated area located in Metro Manila. You cannot remember your exact date and place of birth. From what he recalls, the family moved from one place of residence to another until he recognized the things around him. Every day early in the morning, in his first years of life (around 3-4 years), he accompanied his father collecting garbage such as newspapers, metals, plastics and bottles in a wooden cart and collected them in sacks for the delivery. to a nearby junk shop which is a 30 minute walk away. After exchanging the materials for monetary value, the father has the means to provide food for the family for one day. That means another day is another fight. The mother is also helping to collect garbage during her free time, but above all, she is at home with the children, preparing simple meals and doing housework. This child is about 12 years old, he comes from a family of 12 members (10 children plus 2 parents). He carries a great responsibility on his young shoulders as an older son. The youngest is only 5 months old. His father is also doing the same as him, selling water and nuts on buses in other areas. For him, the challenge is there; his mind is fixed on working and helping the needs of the family.
This boy stopped going to school when he was in fourth grade. Public primary education is free, but due to life’s struggle, he could not afford to trade time for academic endeavors with the money his family so badly needed to get through each day. Every day, he accompanied his father to look for food among the garbage. Despite her circumstances, she still has a strong desire to go to school. The dream of becoming a teacher one day is his wish.
The streets can be considered your second home. His work sometimes took him far from home and he braved the dangerous streets at night, sometimes he even fell asleep, not caring about the inherent dangers that surround him.
When this boy got on the bus, there were many of them selling different foods. In this group of young people, he is the youngest. Despite their age differences, the circumstances of their life have brought them together and they have all become friends; all can be considered young people who do not go to school. Local community leaders were giving them a job like this to help them become self-reliant specifically for the out-of-school youth program.
At the end of the trip
Before I knew it, the bus was approaching my intended destination. I thanked the boy for the time he had given me. I gave him a book to read and another book to write at his age. When asked if we could meet again, he replied that he was not sure, but hoped that one day we would meet again. He promised that he would go to school and that one day he would become a teacher. Poverty, as many others before him have shown, is not an obstacle to accessing education. Humility was shown here in the story despite the danger and humiliation. Hard work regardless of age and determination in all aspects of our life is a formula for success. Contemplating as a father who has raised two children, there are many young people today who are lucky and have been blessed with adequate shelter, meals on the table, and most importantly, the opportunity for an education. Education is free for all and should never be denied. to any child, regardless of race, religion or socioeconomic status.