Sunday, September 4, 2011

Seeing beyond scholarships (a repost)

(A message shared to the USM scholars of Youth Educational Support for Mindanao (YES Mindanao) of the Partnership for Youth Leadership Enrichment)

An international student doing her thesis asked PYLE trustees in one of our meetings if whether education helped in anyway in achieving peace and development in Mindanao. Without hesitation, we answered yes! The follow up question was rather more striking. “Then why is it that revolutionary movements are usually led by educated individuals?”

The question raised by the said researcher somehow made me rethink on the value of our scholarship program in achieving peace and development in our region. We always assume that providing this scholarship program can help plant the seed of peace and progress but that question made us contemplate on how to deliver appropriate services for our beneficiaries. Our history has shown us how knowledge was used as either to build up or destroy human civilizations. In this way, I can say how education is a double edge dagger that is both beneficial and detrimental depending on how one holds the dagger.

Knowledge is power. Many men reached the pedestal of the society because they are “learned” and “knowledgeable” giving them the sense of power. However, knowledge is sometimes dangerous. Adam and Eve were warned of the consequences of obtaining knowledge. Needless to say, power corrupts men. And we have seen how power has changed men. In the context of our scholarship program, we thought of integrating values formation to let our scholars understand the goodness of humanity beyond the four walls of a classroom. It is not what you learned from the university that matters most but the ideals and values you acquired from the four years of college life. A famous scientist once said that learning is what is left of your humanity when you strip yourself of your degrees and of what you learned in the classroom. But I just don't know if Einstein ever have rested in peace knowing that his science was used by technocrats in building nuclear weapons that has the potential to wipe out human race. Spiderman was right. With great power, comes great responsibility.

Our support for education is founded on the great beyond. Our scholarship is not about the allowances, it is about how you use it wisely. It is not about the uniforms, it is about wearing it with dignity and pride. It is not about books but it is about what you have read and understood. It is not about providing a dormitory, it is about understanding culture of one's roommates. It is not about the diploma but the person holding the diploma. It is not about the person with professional titles, it is about how they use their titles for the greater and common good. It is not about religious differences, it is about the commonalities of our faith. It is not about the grades, it is about wisdom.

To the scholars, my exhortation is about your responsibility to the real world. Providing the resources for the sixty scholars is not what worry us the most. It is the thousand others who have not even set foot on a classroom. We are more interested on how the inclusion of the few can help those thousands excluded. Education is a double-edge dagger. We do not like to create an elite irresponsible intellectuals who will trample down the rights of the majority. With great power, comes great responsibility, so to speak. We hope that our services can help our scholars find wisdom on what is right and just. Our organization has limited resources, and we can only afford to support a few. It is only our hope that somehow these privileged individuals will do something to uplift the conditions of their respective families and communities. When this happens, it somehow compensates the efforts of the program to bringforth change in every scholar's life that would radiate and influence others' lives. Our dear scholars, the gains of your experiences will serve as an inspiration that will continue to linger on for those who hope and dream for better life ahead. As you soar high, don't forget to take others with you to be the catalysts of tomorrow.

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