It's Back to School time here! I know that no one back in the states wants to even think about a new school year much less school fees, school supplies, and uniforms, but that's what is happening on our side of the world right now as you enter into your summer vacation.
This year is there will be lots changes taking place in the educational system here in the next two years. This will be the first year that 11th grade will be offered. Next year, 12th will be added. This sounds good in theory. Kids won't be finishing high school at age 15 or 16. Those attending college will be older and a little more mature when they begin and when they graduate. It also means those not going to college won't be hanging out getting into trouble until they can get full time jobs at 18.
But the adding of two more grades puts an extra burden on many of the families here in the Philippines. This means two more years of school fees, school supplies, and uniforms. Families with older kids are having to make hard decisions about who will be going to school and who will not. It may mean that the younger children will not be able to begin on time because the money will be used for the older sibling to finish. Or it might mean that the older children will not be able to graduate from high school because the money is needed for the younger siblings to begin school. It is a tough, no win situation for many families.
But this new policy has also created a larger scale problem for schools and students. Many of the schools can't physically hold another grade level. There is simply no room to keep the entire class one more year much less two more years with the upcoming grades entering. So, it became a first come first serve basis for 11th grade registration. Many students were not able to get into a public school 11th grade class. They are also no longer able register for a technical school or college since those are now requiring the full twelve years of schooling. This leaves a great deal of young people stuck with no options.
Meet 16 year old Graceziel, one student who is stuck, but is determined to get an education and become a P.E. teacher despite having no one, but God, and nothing but her faith.
We first met Graceziel when we lived in Malaybalay. She lived in our neighborhood with her aunt and became close friends with our two girls. Her mother die when she was 9 years old, and her father left her and her siblings with relatives to find work. He ended up starting a new family in another place and never came back. She, just like Joshua and so many others here, has been shuffled around from relative to relative for most of her life with no stability, no support. But despite the crappy situation she was given, she was and still is one of the most joyous and faith-filled teens I have ever met. She was always very involved in her church and in her youth group. When we'd talk about her life situation, she'd always remind me that God would take care of her and her needs.
She contacted me recently to ask for prayers. Without the help and support of a parent, she was unable to register for 11th grade. She did not have the money for the registration fee at the time of enrollment. She also had to move out of yet another relative's home, to another town, and into a boarding house that she pays for with the money she earns washing dishes at a restaurant. Even though she is living completely on her own, supporting herself with a very poor paying job, she managed to save up enough money this summer to pay the registration fee for 11th grade only to discover that it is too late. All of the public schools in her area are full. The only option she has is a private high school.
Even that didn't break Graceziel's spirit, she began searching for a private school that still had spots abailable. When she found one and saw the cost, she began searching for scholarships and government aid to help her pay the tuition. When I talked with her this week, she had received a voucher from the government for over half of the tuition. She asked me to please help her pay the registration fee of $130. She then assured me that she would continue to work while attending school to pay the monthly tuition if I could just find someone to sponsor her registration fee.
This absolutely broke my heart!! What 16 year old should be washing dishes at night to pay for her own food and rent, living in a boarding house alone with no family while going to high school? This is the part of mission life that I hate. This is the part that keeps me up at night. This is the part that makes me question my God, my faith, my belief. This is the part that reminds my why I am still here serving when our two year commitment ended last September.
If anyone wants to be the answer to Graceziel's prayers, please use this link (Seilhan Family Missions) to donate. Please type "Graceziel" in the comments box on the donation page. Or mail in a donation to Family Missions Company, 12624 Everglade Road, Abbeville, LA 70510. Please write "TMS-Graceziel" in the memo.
Her total tuition bill for the semester including the registration fee and monthly tuition is $250. If you'd like to help her with her monthly rent and food so that she does not have to wash dishes at night, please send us an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or message us on Facebook (Seilhan Family Missions).
Please pray for Graceziel and for all the "Graceziels" out there who are "stuck" without any place to call home and no one to turn to.