Xavier University is Giving Street Kids Free Night Classes
It’s a sad reality that not everyone has equal access to a good education. All too often, we see children hanging around stoplights to beg for coins or sell sampaguita chains, when they should be at school. But in Cagayan de Oro, Xavier University-Ateneo de Cagayan is working to get street kids and out-of-school youths back into the classroom through their Night School Program.
Since September 2016, the Xavier Ateneo Night School Program has been accepting students between 16 and 35 years old. They attend classes four nights a week, from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. The program implements modules from the Department of Education’s Alternative Learning System (ALS), which are taught by DepEd mobile teachers. Apart from the ALS classes, volunteer teachers from Xavier University hold English, Math, Filipino, and General Science classes to better prepare the students for the ALS Acceleration and Equivalency (A&E) Test.
The A&E test is critical, since passing it allows students to apply senior high school and college, even if they haven’t completed a formal education. And whether or not they decide to continue their schooling, they will receive a certificate from DepEd declaring that their competencies are equal to that of someone who has graduated from a traditional school.
The night school program runs for about 10 months, during which students attend a total of 160 meetings. Afterwards, they take the A&E test which is administered by DepEd every November.
However, the night school isn’t just about academics—their goal is to provide their students with a holistic education. Every third and fourth Thursday of the month, they hold theater, dance, and music classes. Through their sports development program, the kids take part in physical activities like basketball, volleyball, and karate.
Given that this is the digital age, computer literacy is vital, as well. Students are taught how to use basic hardware, software, and the Internet. They gain skills like data entry and word processing, and learn how to use spreadsheets and electronic communications.
And of course, since Ateneo de Cagayan is a Catholic university, they provide spiritual formation too. “Spiritual formation aims to bring learners closer to God or Allah more deeply through an Ignatian Spirituality discipline,” explains Jett Torres, formator and officer-in-charge of the night school program.
Since most of their students come from broken families, the night school program has also teamed up with the City Social Welfare Department (CSWD) to provide family intervention and proper counseling. “We link some experts or agencies to address our learners’ specific concerns,” Torres adds.
A good education has the power to change lives. Torres has observed that after completing the program, his students gain a greater sense of self-confidence that enables them to move on to formal schooling. “This simple dream of passing the [A&E] test is an avenue for them to advance in their formal education,” he says. “For others, although they have not met the standard score of the test, they felt appreciated, empowered, improved their knowledge.”
After passing the A&E test, the students can apply for scholarships at the Andrew L. Gotianun Sr. Center for Integrated Technologies High School. Some even go on to obtain college scholarships after that. The program also partners with various businesses and establishments to help their students find part-time jobs.
“With the interventions that we have given them, I believe that they are capable of honing their knowledge and redirecting their own dreams in life,” Torres says.