Good news and bad

FIRST, THE good news: According to Ateneo’s Institute of Philippine Culture (IPC), the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) Program’s cash grants and the conditionalities have kept students in schools and brought children and pregnant women for regular check-ups at health centers.

CCT beneficiary-families are also very thankful and happy about the benefits they receive from the program.

And while there have been no widespread changes in the sources of independently-generated income and income-levels of 4Ps households since the program began, the cash grants have eased the severity of lean periods and enable more expenditures and consumption of basic necessities and some non-staple commodities and services during abundant periods.

At the barangay level, the program seems to have helped increase the number of children who have been immunized, as well as in improving children’s weights and families’ ability to manage sickness in the household. Greater awareness of maternal health concerns was also observed.

One significant change, though, was in the physical and material readiness of the children to attend school. Indeed, the IPC researchers note that the CCT children came to class clothed more properly, equipped with the necessary materials, and with full stomachs. The clothing, materials and projects, and food also seem to have made students more interested to come to school and be more active in class.

Parents as well were more participative, interacting more with teachers to monitor their children’s performance. At the very least, they no longer had to feel ashamed about any unpaid school fees.

A reduction of child labor in the areas visited by the IPC was attributed to the program’s frowning on child labor. The need for children to work at an early age remained just so poor households could survive, but the CCT program seems to have led to greater awareness and sensitivity about child labor.

Now the bad news: It remains unclear whether the positive behavioral changes observed were simply a result of the beneficiaries’ compliance with the CCT conditionalities (and could therefore disappear once the program ends) or actually signal the onset of long-lasting improvements.

The CCT families themselves were very unsure of how they would fare once the program ends, seemingly convinced that their future was still bleak. Majority did not see how their children could continue without the CCT, much less complete their schooling.

Says the IPC study: “At this rate then, whether school attendance will translate into academic achievement, completion of education, and eventually gainful employment remains blurry. Parents themselves can only be hopeful about their children completing high school. They acknowledge the lack of other income generating opportunities, high cost of education, and limited provision and duration of 4Ps as major constraints to their children’s full acquisition and benefit of education. The teachers recognize the same formidable constraints and are likewise wary, even befuddled about opportunities for children and youth from the (CCT) households.” – Che de los Reyes, PCIJ, May 2011