Alarmed by a recent study that out-of-school youth (OSY) in the country have reached more than 6 million, Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) Congressman Win Gatchalian has filed a bill defining the rights of OSY and requiring technical and vocational education to be provided for them without cost.
In pushing for House Bill No. 5896, also known as the “Magna Carta for Out-of-School Youth”, Gatchalian wants an affirmative action by the government to ensure the welfare and quality of life of OSY in the Philippines.
“The problem of out-of-school youth is an undeniable reality that currently confronts our State. Hence it is the duty of Congress to pass laws that will curb the number of out-of-school youth and protect their rights as provided for by the Constitution,” explained Gatchalian, who is a majority member of the House Committees on Basic Education and Culture and on Higher and Technical Education.
Gatchalian recalled a 2010 study by the Philippine Statistics Authority, which found out that 6.24 million youth in 2010 left school due to the high cost of education and desire to work, among other reasons. A 2003 World Bank study estimated a higher figure, showing there are between 8 and 10 million OSY in the Philippines.
OSY is defined by HB 5896 as those aged 6 to 17 who are not attending formal school and those aged 18 to 24 who are not in school, are jobless, and have not finished college or any course after high school.
Under Gatchalian’s proposed measure, out-of-school youngsters will be given the right to protection from violence, particularly physical abuse, sexual exploitation, and human trafficking. The bill also lays out the OSY’s right to equal treatment before the law.
“The government shall also draft law and create programs to advance OSY in cooperation with private media-related organizations to ensure that portrayal of OSY in media and films are non-discriminatory,” Gatchalian pointed out.
The Valenzuela City representative said the government shall also provide mandatory technical or vocational education for free to OSY, with the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) regulating the course that would last at least six months.
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“All materials and tools needed by the OSY while enrolled in a course shall be provided for by the government. OSY who are in an institution managed by the DSWD shall study under the Alternative Learning System,” said Gatchalian.
Under HB 5896, an OSY may be recommended by an assigned TESDA adviser for a college scholarship grant from the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) which shall include tuition fee, boarding allowance, and a monthly stipend. Graduates of such scholarship program shall be required to render service to the government for at least two years.
Those who have the capacity and desire to work shall be given job opportunities. The government shall also guarantee OSY’s right to decent work. It shall exert all efforts to address the causes of out-migration and develop local employment for TESDA graduates.
The bill also provides for OSY workers and TESDA graduates to have a mandatory life, accident, and health insurance coverage to be provided by their employer.
“OSY who are victims and survivors of crimes such as rape, trafficking, and armed conflict which have incapacitated them shall be given access to services by local government units (LGUs) including temporary and protective custody, medical and dental services, counseling, legal services, and livelihood and financial aid,” said Gatchalian.
An inter-agency council to be known as the Out-of-School Youth Welfare Council, headed by the Social Welfare secretary, shall plan and implement yearly programs under the proposed measure. (Monica Cantilero)