By Johnny R. Lee, Ph.D.
Basic facts showed that there were few educational programs, both formal and non-formal, for the Badjaos and rarely have they benefitted in said programs. Educational interventions given by the local providers (e.g. LGU’s, CSO’s and some public and state educational institutions) are seemed to be ineffective because they did not look deeper into the social-being, characteristics and most important the economic capacity of a Badjao family or families to send and sustain their children to attend both formal and non-formal education.
While the current policy of the Philippine Government is ‘free education for all from elementary grades to collegiate level’, this could hardly apply to the Badjaos who remain to be poor and destitute. Majority of the Badjao family or families can only live in ‘day-to-day basis’. Whatever they earned for the day from the bounties of the seas as fishers and seafood gatherers are only good to feed them for little number of days. In times of unfavorable weather conditions there is no other means to rely on. That is why we see most of the adult male Badjaos and able-bodied youngsters are found in piers and streets doing labor works for very small fees. Some of their women can be seen as street beggars; and their toddlers, in a small bancas, are seen waiting for an incoming commercial vessels hoping to pick-up some coins or left-over foodstuffs tossed by sympathetic passengers. These children are the so-called ‘coin-divers’ which are common scene in almost ports in the region.
Looking at these miserable situations one can surmised that there is very little hope that the Badjaos can disentangled their lot from the vicious cycle of poverty.
Getting some feedbacks from sociologists and prominent academicians, there are remedies and practical solutions that can be of help to overturn the sad plight of the Badjaos.
Here are some suggestions:
A. Establish schools that are exclusives for the Badjao children – There should be a school especially in the elementary level that should be exclusive for the Badjao children knowing that Badjaos are ‘clannish’ and has low tolerance for other ‘higher tribes’ to avoid discrimination, intimidation and ‘bullying’ inside the classrooms. Because they are so poor, their school needs and stuffs should be provided by government agencies concerned and their parents be subsidized in cash or in kind (food allowances) to sustain a decent living in order to sustain and continuity of schooling of their children.
B. Recruit teachers from among the Badjaos who have earned a degree from the college. – According to my source it is better to hire and assign teachers who come from their own tribal group and those sympathetic to the Badjao cause and aspirations. The source added that there are a number of Badjao students who have graduated from their schools (a state college) but remain unemployed because they do not have the ‘right connections’ to the ‘bureaucracy’. Most of these graduates will just go back to their home place and revert back as fishermen and seaweed farmers to help their family. Said Badjao graduates managed to finish their schooling because they were given scholarships as college athletes in volleyball and swimming.
C. Enlist them in the military service. – Again, my source suggested that those who have earned their college degrees should be given special privilege to enlist in the military establishment like the Philippine Coast Guard, the Philippine Navy and other Allied military branch of the Armed Forces of the Philippines that requires the talent and expertise of the Badjaos as most fitted in the performance of duties along maritime, nautical and navigations. Other these, the Badjaos can be utilized as athletes during Intra-AFP mini-Olympics to represent them in the games of beach volleyball, swimming, water polo, and other aqua-sports like rowing, kayaking and dragon boats racing.
D. Include and recruit (with full privileges and financial support) the Badjaos male athletes who have potentials in swimming and games of volleyball to be trained in the national sports agencies like the Philippine Sports Commission. – It will be recalled that a number of Philippine Olympian swimmers belongs to the Badjao tribes like Bana Sailani, Leroy Goff and Jairulla Jaitulla, in the 60’s and 70’s. A number of Sama-Badjao volleyball athletes can be found in leading colleges and universities around the country. (JRL)