It is graduation time once more. Schools are all abuzz preparing for this annual event. In the Philippines, a child has to go through four graduation ceremonies before he/she is finally done with school. There is graduation from pre-school, then elementary graduation, high school graduation and then college. If they go ahead and pursue a post graduate course, then that would be five graduation ceremonies all in all.
I turned my attention to young children. The youth and their dreams. The voices of the future. I asked some neighborhood kids about their dreams and if they would go abroad after graduation. I was surprised with their honest, innocent responses.
Gab, 4 years old
Gab lives next door to me. He's a little tyke with a huge personality.
When asked what he wants to be when he grows up, he quickly responds:
"I want to make buildings and houses. I want to be like my godfather - an architect."
Angelo, 7 years old
Angelo and his friends play a lot outside when school is over.
He dreams of becoming a doctor someday.
When I asked him if he would want to work abroad, he said, "No, I want to stay here."
JL, 11 years old
Like Angelo, he also dreams of becoming a doctor.
I asked him, "A doctor here or abroad?"
His response: "I'm not sure yet."
Judan, 7 years old
Judan was ready with his smile even before I had the camera on. What does Judan want to be when he grows up?
"A police officer in America!" was his quick response.
Tana, 6 years old
Tana was quiet and shy but agreed to have her picture taken.
I asked about her dreams and she said she wants to be a nurse.
And she whispers "No going abroad. Just a nurse here."
Masakasu, 10 years old
Masakasu is a Filipino-Japanese boy who dreams of becoming a Civil Engineer.
He was confident to declare he will definitely be working abroad when he is done with school.
Ayesha, 6 years old
Ayesha is so tiny I thought she was still in pre-school. In her soft, shy voice she said, "I want to be a nurse and work in Saudi Arabia."
Erika, 7 years old
Erika is lives in the next door apartment. She loves to sing and dreams of becoming an architect someday. When asked about her thoughts about working abroad, she said she does not want to go abroad to work.
It is alarming that some of these young children have their mind set on working abroad. One of them said that his father is in Saudi Arabia and is earning more than he was when he was here. Young as they are, these kids have the awareness of how difficult life is in the Philippines. They are aware of the fact that their chances to get a good job is not very promising. Their thoughts of a better life is not here but in some other country.
When will our country escape the vicious cycle of the brain drain? Instilling patriotism in the minds of our youth is not good enough to make them stay. How can you opt to stay in the country when you can hardly make ends meet? An offer of a high paying job abroad would be very hard to refuse even if it means that you would be overqualified and underemployed.
These little kids with big dreams hold the future of our country in their hands. I wish our government would make laws to provide funding for their education, similar to the student loan programs being offered in other countries. Young minds who wish to serve, to be productive members of society must be given an a chance to be doctors, engineers, nurses, teachers or architects. A guarantee of local employment after graduation would provide motivation for our youth to strive hard to attain their dreams.
I do not believe that our country does not have ample resources to fund a student loan program. We have the resources, it is only misappropriated and sadly, it ends up in the hands of the corrupt few.
Our children do not have to work abroad as maids, laborers, or janitors to earn a decent income.
If we want to have real economic improvement, all we need is to invest in the future.
Ask a child. Feel their dreams. Listen to their voice.
The voice of the future.