Implemented by the Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP), the project is being funded by employees and officials of Fluor, an engineering company.

Included in the scholarship package for the 86 school children in Maguindanao were school supplies, bags, uniforms, shoes and enrolment fees.

E=mC2 raises funds through employee-giving. PBSP enjoins companies such as Fluor to adopt the project as an expression of their corporate citizenship. Companies or institutions can encourage volunteerism by advancing their employees’ pledges of monetary donation and providing avenues for staff to devote time and talent for the cause of advancing Mindanao’s education problems.

Now on its third year in Maguindanao, E=MC2 has led countless school children to go back to school through the assistance that the project provides.

Education has been a priority when PBSP started development work in Mindanao. In a statement, PBSP Mindanao Chair Paul Dominguez expressed his gratitude to Fluor “for its abiding confidence in PBSP, and to the Malangit community in Maguindanao for its faith and determination in pursuing this affirmative action.”

Nohaira Pakil, one of the beneficiaries, just finished Grade IV recently and is upbeat to enter the next grade level when classes start in June.

During school days, Nohaira walks to school together with other kids in their village because public transport is scarce in this part of Buluan, Maguindanao. Malangit Elementary School is about four kilometers from their house, so she has to rise up early to avoid being late in the class.

Her father who is a farmer sees to it that she is already in school before he proceeds to the farm nearby. So he takes time accompanying Nohaira to school early each class days. The youngest among five siblings, Nohaira know how her parents have brought them up amidst the difficult situation facing them and others in the village.

At least its summer vacation now and the kids usually stay at home, giving temporary respite to working parents like Badroddin- Nohaira’s father.

He planted vegetables and bananas because they are saleable in the market. He also finds time doing extra jobs cleaning his neighbors’ rice paddies for a fee. His irregular income barely supports their daily food necessities.

On some occasions when nobody hires him to clean rice fields, Badroddin tries other ways to earn. “Mamumulot ako ng kahoy upang ibenta para kahit paano, may pambili kami ng bigas” (I will gather firewood so that we will have money to buy rice), he said. Life is never easy, but he tried his best to make the situation a little bit lighter by using other opportunities to earn aside from farming.

Badroddin also tries fishing at nearby Buluan river, so when his catch for day exceeds what they need, he sells some of the fish and use the money to buy other household necessities. “Ibinebenta ko ang kalahati ng mga nahuli ko at ang iba naman ay uulamin namin” (I sell half of my catch and the rest we will set aside for our viand), Badroddin said.

Like their parents, children in this village have been molded to live the farmer’s way. “Pag may pasok, mag-aaral talaga, tuwing Sabado at Linggo tulong naman sa magulang” (If there are classes, study well; while on Saturdays and Sundays we find time helping our parents), Nohaira said.

“Pero may panahon din na hindi na pumapasok lalo na kung anihan (However, there were times that I skip classes especially during harvest time)”, she added. Some school children in Maguindanao help their parents during harvest time to augment household income. Other kids would eventually drop out after incurring several absences.

Summer time is both fun and an opportunity to help the family. It is also a time to reenergize household efforts to earn extra income for food necessities and in preparation for the opening of classes in June.

Badroddin has doubled his efforts, making sure that the kids would be in school when classes start. His wife does the same by taking care of the children while he is in the farm. However, life in the village has been difficult and his earnings will not suffice to meet other needs.

He can still recall how happy his wife was when Nohaira has been included among the list of school children, who will become beneficiaries of a scholarship program.

“Malaking tulong po yung scholarship assistance kasi yung panggastos sa paaralan ay pwede na naming idagdag pambili ng pagkain” (The scholarship assistance has been a great help because the money for school expenses can now augment our budget for food), Badrodin said.

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