Why poverty is not a choice

The state recognizes too that it needs to have a highly educated population to keep the engines of growth running. CHED has identified that some of its priority courses, for example, are agricultural economics, petroleum engineering, multimedia, and teacher education. These courses anticipate the emerging needs of industries in the country.

The main caveat though is that education is an expensive feat. The obvious intervention is to make it cheaper or even free, even tertiary education. That is most noble, no doubt. 

But the ones who make it to universities around the country tend to come from capable families. One big reason why students drop out of school is not only the expensive fees. It's the complete package that makes education prohibitive: uniform, books, projects, board and lodging, and transportation. 

If these concerns are not addressed systematically, the ones who would benefit from the free fees are those who already have the means to begin with.   

Remove the barriers

The challenge for the state and the development field is to remove these barriers. At one level it is about empowering communities to speak louder and fight harder so their concerns are heard. That's why efforts at fostering participatory governance are important.  

But at another level it is also about challenging institutions to recognize these barriers.

These barriers are what people forget when they hold the poor solely accountable for their poverty, like in the case of Kadamay's homelessness. 

Many have argued that what they are doing is illegal.  

But one thing is clear. They are simply fighting for the right to lead better lives – with a roof over the head for starters. 

That's an indication that nobody wants to be poor. 

In contrast to accusations hurled at them, the poor are most likely the most hardworking people around. Think of our garbage collectors, janitors, tricycle drivers, and ice cream vendors. If they even attempted a day with these folks, the bourgeois would simply melt in the sun.  

We who are privileged need to be considerate.  It is irresponsible to blame the vulnerable for their mishaps in life. 

That is because nobody wants to die poor. – Rappler.com


Jayeel Serrano Cornelio, PhD is the Director of the Development Studies Program, Ateneo de Manila University. He is most emotional whenever he teaches the sociology of development - just ask his students. Follow him on twitter @jayeel_cornelio.

Jayeel Cornelio

Jayeel Cornelio, PhD is Associate Professor and the Director of the Development Studies Program at the Ateneo de Manila University. A sociologist of religion, he is a recipient of the 2017 Outstanding Young Scientist Award from the National Academy of Science and Technology. He i...