The July 2006 Edition of Street Spirit

A publication of the American Friends Service Committee


National AFSC AFSC Economic Justice BOSS Website



In this issue:

Corruption at Oakland Housing Authority

Shot Through the Heart in S.F.

Legal Challenge to Cruel Attacks on SF Homeless

GRIP's Shelter in Richmond

HUD Plans to Demolish Public Housing in New Orleans

Fresno Homeless Attacked

Stonewalling by Bush's ICH on Homeless Issues

Are We Not Our Brother's Keeper

Congress Refuses to Raise the Minimum Wage

Beyond Prisons: Challenge to the Prison System

Penal Servitude

The U.S. Racial Wealth Gap

Poor Working Conditions for Immigrants

AFSC Sues Defense Dept. for Surveillance

Surveillance and Orwell's 1984

Enron's Good Fight

Poor Leonard's Almanack: On Self-Realization

July Poetry of the Streets

Child Slavery on African Cocoa Farms

The Worth of Education in the Phillipines


June 2006

May 2006

April 2006

March 2006

February 2006

January 2006

November 2005

October 2005

September 2005

August 2005

July 2005

June 2005

May 2005

April 2005

March 2005

February 2005




Street Spirit is published by American Friends Service Committee.

All works are copyrighted by the authors.

The views expressed in Street Spirit are those of the individual authors alone, and not necessarily that of the American Friends Service Committee.

The Worth of Education in the Philippines

by Nooshin Shabani

Children in the Philippines hungrily absorb new books. Photo by GVN

Education is not a privilege, it's a need, a need in the Philippines which is not being nurtured. Malcolm Trevena, 33, New Zealand, decided to help by donating six months of his time volunteering in the Philippines teaching English in schools. He volunteered through the Global Volunteer Network.

After leaving his IT job behind, he prepared himself to ride a roller coaster of surprises. "I decided to try something completely different and exciting," he said. "Making the rich richer and putting the poor out of work started to lose its appeal."

He spent his time in the Philippines working in a village school in the Visayas. When Malcolm first arrived, he began to notice the shocking levels of poverty. "I saw little children wandering in and out of cars on the motorway selling flowers."

The levels of poverty in the Philippines are extreme. Street children wander the city streets selling any gadgets they can get their hands on to make money to feed their family. Economic imbalance between people is a familiar problem in many Third World countries - you're either very rich or very poor, and there is no middle.

Many Filipinos who are fortunate enough to get an education go on to seek work abroad, as opportunities are greater overseas. Malcolm stayed with a Filipino family in their village. He witnessed at first hand how much the education system needed to be improved. There was a serious lack of resources.

"Most of the textbooks were falling apart and were out of date and had obviously been written by someone whose first language was not English," said Malcolm. "I had the only Grade 5 reading book."

The Philippines is prone to natural disasters and suffers political instability, as many Filipinos believe the political system is corrupt and the last election was rigged. As the Philippines has a ballooning amount of debt to repay, education is not on the priority list. According to the Philippine Education Sector study (World Bank & Asian Development Bank), the decade of 1998-2008 will be a period of limited or zero growth in the public budgetary allocation to education as a whole.

"Teachers are the least well-paid government employees, as the police and the military are paid the most," Malcolm said. "Some of the schools have one teacher to 80 children. Some classrooms are so overcrowded that students have to peer in from outside the classroom."

Education is something which is appreciated in the Philippines, and it's something which children do not take for granted, as it may one day be the key which is needed to open the door to a better life.

People have a sense of community and their living conditions have forced locals to make some astonishing choices. One local villager who lost a family member through violence chose not to prosecute the perpetrator, as it would mean that their family would suffer if their primary money-earner should go to prison and the rest of the family would go hungry. "Between justice and food, the people choose food," said Malcolm.

A group of volunteers with the Global Volunteer Network (GVN) built a roof on one of the classrooms so the students would not need to scrunch up in one half of the classroom when it rained. Malcolm set up numerous tutorial groups to teach the quieter, slower kids who were shy in the class. Volunteers made a tangible difference through donating books and carrying out maintenance work.

"I think being there had an impact," he said. "It let them know that some people cared about them even though the government didn't give a rat's arse about them."

He was overwhelmed at just how much the children appreciated being taught English. As the GVN volunteers brought some books with them to the school, the children became excited. "The kids immediately took to the books," he said. "They were like dry sponges soaking up the goodness of books. It was great to see."

Like ostriches in sand, children bury their heads in the very few books that are available to them.

According to a meeting held by the Alliance of Concerned Teachers based in the Philippines, almost 20 percent of Filipinos are illiterate and the number of children out of school is on the rise. The poverty that people endure results in most of the children not having the chance to finish school and receive a proper education.

As for the street children who wander around working the roads hoping to make money for food, some of them are reduced to committing petty crimes like stealing food so they don't starve. Once they are caught by authorities, children over 15 are detained in an adult's prison. According to UNICEF, every day another 28 children get arrested and more than half of the crimes are not serious.

At present, Malcolm Trevena is volunteering with GVN in a refugee camp based in Ghana and will then go on to volunteer with Mukono youth in Uganda for another six months.

Malcolm volunteered with the Global Volunteer Network, a non-government organization based in New Zealand, which connects people to communities in need. For information please see

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