Sunday, April 29, 2012

Education and Land Reform

Education is the key to a successful land reform program, just as ignorance is the one plague that has kept our people in bondage for so many years.

In our country, it is not uncommon to hear people say that if one has not attained higher education, tilling the land is the only option available. People equate tilling the land with ignorance.

In rural agricultural areas, farmers who were awarded lands find themselves unable to sustain its productivity on their own. Eventually, they get lured by the promise of easy money and they sell off their lands to real estate developers. Not knowing any better, they use the money for non-revenue generating assets like houses and furniture which they eventually pawn or sell – or worse on gambling, booze and other vices. Then they end up with nothing, and they go to the urban areas to try their luck.

In cities and urban centers, people from the provinces who used to farm and raise livestock become informal settlers and join squatter colonies. Without education to land them decent jobs, they fall prey to all kinds of opportunists. Unscrupulous businesses take advantage of their cheap labor. Politicians encourage a mindset of mendicancy and use them as voting blocks. Militants take advantage of their situation to push for their own agenda and incite class warfare. For some, poverty becomes an excuse for crime.

But there is no excuse for greed – whether individual or corporate. Neither is there also an excuse for remaining poor and ignorant. There are no reasons why farmers cannot be successful landowners. There are no reasons why they cannot help each other to make lands more productive. There are no reasons why farmers cannot work with businessmen to supply the demand for produce and earn a decent profit. There are no reasons for farmers to remain poor.

It is not the land, or the lack of it, that keeps our farmers poor. It is ignorance. Being poor is not a reason for ignorance. Rather, ignorance is the reason why people remain poor. Education gives the people the power to rise above ignorance. Land reform without educational reform is bound to fail and will just perpetuate the vicious cycle of poverty.

The government must ensure that Land Reform is preceded and sustained by Educational Reform. Congress must pass laws on genuine and sustainable land reform that will put forward social justice that encompasses both the landowners and the farmers. To be truly encompassing, land reform must also include urban areas to address the growing and worsening problem of the urban poor.

On the other hand, the Executive Department led by the President must have the political will to implement these reforms. There is logic to the intent of the Constitution to limit the tenure of the President to only one term. It is to give the Chief Executive the free-hand and political leeway to execute hard decisions without the burden of thinking about a re-election campaign. For us to move forward, sacrifices must be made and we need a leader who will do what is right even if it means the end of his political career. Our President must cease to be a politician and become a statesman.

Our Judiciary is supposed to be the defender of our rights, the bastion of equality and the fountain of social justice. The current Supreme Court is dominated by justices appointed by a President bent on protecting her interests over and above that of the country. She took advantage of history and circumstance to appoint justices who are not only legal lightweights, but heavily indebted to her – foremost of which is the illegal Chief Justice.

Our Judiciary has been and is being prostituted. Sad, but very true.

Some people say Presidents should not appoint the justices. Others say that the JBC is a farce and a failure. But good justices, many even great, were appointed by Presidents in the past. P-Noy himself appears to have done good appointments to the Supreme Court. The key then is to choose leaders that will abide by the greater interest of the people, not theirs.

There is a sarcastic joke going around that for the Philippines to escape from corruption and impunity, we need to eradicate a whole generation to start fresh. What we actually need is to eradicate ignorance through education reform. We need to have an informed electorate that will vote with discernment. We need constituents who will actively participate in good governance. Corruption and bad governance will continue only if we allow it to do so.

Social media is revolutionizing the use of information in our society. It is providing an informal platform from where people can be educated in the reform of our government in particular and our society in general. Education need not be confined in schools, nor is it an exclusive domain of academics. We can all learn from each other. And by not giving up on each other, we ensure a better future for the generations to come.

* Picture is from http://filipinolifeinpictures.wordpress.com.

1 comment:

Monisima's Life in the Philippines said...

agreed. Land reform is nothing if not backed by education and funds to buy the equipment and means to make the land prodctive.