True to the spirit of “better late than never,” and “you’re never too old to go back to school,” sixty-year-old grandfather Antonio Abelardo has decided to go back to the elementary level, in pursuit of a goal to better himself.
Abelardo, who his schoolmates warmly call “Lolo Antonio,” is a beneficiary of the free education program for the elderly and out-of-school youth of the municipality of Rosario in Cavite.
The municipality’s oldest elementary student is being supported by Mayor Jose “Nonong” Ricafrente Jr., the Department of Education (DepEd), and Cebuana Lhuilier Foundation, Inc. (CLFI).
Lolo Antonio – who earns his keep collecting garbage in the barangay of Wawa – is a part of the Alternative Learning System (ALS) program launched in the town of Rosario on September 12, 2014.
He hopes to someday finish elementary and high school, and says he is not bothered by being with students 40 to 50 years younger than him. To him, the most important aspect is the learning process.
“Mahirap ang walang pinag-aralan, hindi makabasa at hindi sumulat. Sa school marami kang matututunan, ang importante ay makatapos kahit high-school. (It’s hard to not have an education; with neither ability to read nor write. In school, I can learn much; what is important is to finish something, even if it’s just high school),” Abelado said.
Sixteen ALS Community Centers have been set-up by the CLFI, with DepEd’s support, throughout the country. Students have greatly benefitted from the teachers, computers, and various teaching aides and materials provided by the free-education ALS program.
Cesar Vidal, CLFI executive trustee said that “the ALS is the means to realize the goals of the concerned in terms of academics, livelihood, and spiritual and social enhancement.”
The program was conceptualized by Mayor Ricafrente, a lawyer by trade. who himself was a scholar; likewise having come from an underprivileged family.