Erda Foundation – Education against Poverty in the Philippines

By Denise Nanni and Milena Rampoldi, ProMosaik. In the following our interview with Edlyn of the Erda Foundation in the Philippines, supporting children and helping them to overcome poverty through education.



How was the ERDA foundation founded?
Fr Pierre T. Tritz, SJ founded ERDA Foundation in 1974. Before this year, he came across a research by the Department of Education about children who dropped out of school because of poverty.  
He was just walking from his dormitory in Sampaloc, Manila to the nearby universities (University of the East and Far Eastern University) where he was teaching Psychology. Through his travels by foot, he saw, met and talked to at least six children on the street who were not attending school. He was able to prove that the research was true.
Then, he coordinated with a public school (Juan Luna Elementary School) so that these children could go back to school. With a handful of his students who volunteered, he set up ERDA as an Association first. Eventually, ERDA was registered as Educational Research and Development Assistance (ERDA) Foundation in the Philippine Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
Fr Tritz was also a French National and a Jesuit. He decided to give up his French citizenship and elected himself to be Filipino citizen in the 1970′s to be able to establish an organization. (There was Martial Law in the country during that period.)
He was 60 years old when he formed ERDA. Sixty years old has been regarded as the start of the retirement age in the Philippines. But Fr Tritz was an example that a person could still do significant things as this age.


What are the main risk factors in the Philippines that lead children to drop out from the school?
According to Ms Dolora H. Cardeño, ERDA Executive Director, the main reason of children for dropping out of school has always been poverty.
ERDA would also like to share the socio-economic reasons for children’s dropping out of school: For children, it would be loss of interest, no food allowance, distance from home to school; for the family, low family income, lack of support to children’s education, no other source of income, unskilled parents; for the community, lack of facilities, no venue for participation and development, no access to social protection, inactive Barangay (Community) Council for the Protection of Children.


How do you assist their families?
For 42 years, the main program of ERDA has been on Education. Starting 2017, ERDA would be implementing stronger Education (Main) and Family and Community (Support) Programs.
For the Education Program, ERDA has been giving educational supplies (including school bag and uniform) because these has made the children happy and excited to go to school. But ERDA would make its Catch-up Program (enrichment sessions) more purposive. The Catch-up activities will focus on improving the Reading and Math skills of the children. Based from a study, there is a need to improve these skills in Filipino children.
For the Family Support, ERDA will initiate the creation of Community Managed Savings and Credit Associations (CoMSCAs) of parents. This will teach the parents that “no matter how poor they are,” they can still save. One CoMSCA is composed of 25 members. They will have a Committee to preside their meetings and a Constitution (policies) to follow. They will be encouraged to save an amount that is acceptable to the group. From their savings, they can have a loan for needs related to their children’s studies or their family’s basic needs. They will also be encouraged to save for emergencies which is called Social Fund. Eventually, they will be able to have savings for individual or group business which is called Sustainability Fund.
For the Family Support, ERDA will also coordinate with the Local Government Units (LGUs) for the access of the family to the health services and other programs of the Philippine Government.
For the Community Support, ERDA will continue to organize children’s associations and parents’ associations. The children and parents have been ERDA’s partners in advocating for child rights and welfare (rights of children in child labor, children on the streets, children who had conflict with the law). Many parents have even been become volunteers who help in monitoring the children’s education and mobilizing them for advocacy activities.
ERDA will also continue to provide capacity-building trainings especially to the Barangay (local government authority) Council for the Protection of Children (BCPC) in the different areas where the ERDA Program exist for them to advocate for child rights and welfare. BCPC is mandated by the Philippine Government to protect the children and advance their interest. The Barangays are under the Department of Interior and Local Government.
What is your program Alternative learning system about?
The Alternative Learning System (ALS) Program of ERDA is based from the Department of Education’s (Government) ALS. ERDA has an Instructional Manager who facilitates the ALS Program. This Program is for the children especially youth who have stopped going to formal school for a long time. ALS is non-formal in approach. ERDA has a room for the ALS sessions, for example, in the ERDA SaBaNa Center in Tondo. SaBaNa stands for Sanayan ng mga Batang Nanambakan (Development Center for Former Child Scavengers). 
From the Department of Education, the ALS modules are on Communication Skills (listening, speaking, reading and writing), Problem-Solving and Critical Thinking (numeracy and scientific thinking), Sustainable Use of Resources/Productivity (ability to earn a living through self-employment, outside employment, entrepreneurship, sustainable use of resources and appropriate technology and productivity), Development of Self and a Sense of Community (self-development, a sense of personal and national history and identity, cultural pride and recognition, and understanding of civil and political rights) and Expanding One’s World Vision (knowledge, respect and appreciation for diversity, peace and non-violent solution of conflict, and global awareness and solidarity).
After 10 months of ALS sessions, the ALS students called learners would take the Accreditation and Equivalency (A and E) Test for Elementary or High School level. If they pass it, they would receive a Diploma and are qualified to be promoted to the next Education Level (Junior or Senior High). Ninety-five to 100% of the ALS learners of ERDA SaBaNa have passed the A and E Test.
Before the implementation of the Kinder to Grade 12 (K to 12) Educational System in the Philippines, ALS learners who would pass the A and E Test for High School would be qualified to pursue college education or vocational training, engage in livelihood or look for work. Because of the K to 12, the ALS learners who would pass the A and E Test for Junior High School would need to complete the Senior High School. The K to 12 has Junior and Senior High School levels.
Do you cooperate with local authorities and institutions? If yes, how?
Yes, ERDA partners with local authorities and government and other non-government institutions. At the local level, for example, in the ERDA areas, ERDA coordinates with the Barangay (local government authority). ERDA also applies for accreditation or renews its accreditation with each partner Barangay. ERDA has also organized capacity-building trainings for the Barangay Officials specifically to strengthen their Barangay Council for the Protection for Children (BCPC). ERDA would like to support the BCPC through these trainings so that they would enact ordinances and implement programs that would benefit and protect the children.
Photo 1 – Children’s Association Meeting
Photo 2 – Parents’ Organization Meeting
Photo 3 – Advocacy to encourage Barangays (local authorities) to Make their Barangay Council for the Protection of Children (BCPC) Functional
Photo 4 – Junior Educators also Participating on Advocacy Sessions on Child Rights
Photo 5 – ERDA Beneficiaries Participating in the National Children’s Month Celebration