Most 65-year-olds nowadays would either be looking after their grandchildren or enjoying life to its fullest after their retirement. Whichever the case may be, it is something that may indicate a sense of culmination, like a falling action in a typical plot of a story.
Aida Morales’ story is rare but remarkable. At 65 years old, and a widow, she is one of the 15,102 successful takers of the DepEd Alternative Learning System (ALS) Accreditation and Equivalency (A & E) Test held on February 24 in Region III.
A native of San Vicente in Gapan City, Aida is the eldest among six siblings who had to stop schooling when she was in Grade 4 in 1965.
“Dala ng kahirapan, kasi po nagtatrabaho lang po ang tatay namin sa lumber at 35 pesos lang po ang suweldo niya. Isa lang po sa amin ang nakatapos nghigh school at apat kaming babae na hindi nakatapos kahit elementary lang,” said Aida, who helped raise her siblings when she stopped studying.
Before she got married, she worked as a waitress in a small canteen in their community to earn a living.
A dream come true
“Ako’y nangarap na sana dumating ang pagkakataon na matugunan ang aking panalanangin na sana’y mayroong eskwelahan na libreng magturo at mapagpa-aral sa kapares ko,” said Aida.
She recalled how she ended up enlisting herself in the ALS Program in 2017 when an ALS mobile teacher conducted a mapping-out and recruitment of enrollees.
“Nakigulo-gulo at naki-usyoso ako ‘nung may nag-recruit dito sa amin. Nagbiro ako at nagpalista ako. Itinawag pa sa DepEd para itanong kung pwede pa ako sa ALS, at ‘yun pumayag naman.” she reminisced.
According to Melvin Lazaro, Division ALS Coordinator, Gapan City is among the Top 5 divisions in Central Luzon in terms of the percentage of A&E passers.
“Here in Gapan City, we believe that education with compassion is the key to attaining education for all. That’s why ALS Gapan is also providing livelihood, skills training, and outreach program to out-of-school youths aside from the literacy program. Through this strategy, we are able to address their unique needs and win them back to the education system,” explained Lazaro.
Moving up to ALS Secondary
Aida attended ALS graduation rites last June 24 where she delivered a special message.
“Hindi po naging hadlang sa akin ang aking edad para maabot ko at magawa ko na ako’y ga-graduate. May kasabihan na kapag may tiyaga, may pag-asa. Ako’y nagkaroon ng pag-asa na matugunan ang aking panalangin na libreng edukasyon dahil ito ang pinakamahalagang bagay na hindi kayang nakawin ninuman. Kaya ako’y nagpapasalamat sa ALS at sa mga mababait na teacher na siyang sumubaybay at tumanggap sa akin kahit na sa edad kong ito.”
Asked if she will continue with the ALS Program for Secondary Level, Aida said she is excited to achieve her life-long dream of finishing her studies through the free non-formal education program.
“Ang gusto ko’y madagdagan ang aking nalalaman. Ang sabi ko nga sa mga batang bulakbol dito, gawin akong huwaran sapagkat sa edad kong ito ay gusto ko pang mag-aral. Lalo na sila’y bata pa, mas malayo pa kaysa sa akin ang kanilang mararating sa buhay,” Aida emphasized. (Department of Education, Philippines)