Inmates find time to graduate
Dressed in a white toga and cap, inmate Larry Biazon smiled and held his chin up as he walked down the quadrangle of the provincial jail yesterday.
The 42-year-old Biazon was part of the first batch of graduates of the Alternative Learning System (ALS) implemented at the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center (CPDRC. )
He wore his jail uniform underneath his toga for the bittersweet graduation march.
“Medyo masaya, medyo malungkot ako. Wala na kasi akong pamilya (I’m happy, I’m a little sad. I don’t have a family anymore),” he told Cebu Daily News.
A native of Quezon City, Biazon lost his parents at a young age and was raised by priests.
He would have wanted to become a priest, but dropped out in third year high school.
Back then, he was a happy-go-lucky young man who enjoyed traveling with friends after he quit high school.
Biazon admitted being hooked on vices, including gambling.
He was caught in Barili town, south Cebu, for illegal drug possession as he tried to head to Negros Island. Biazon was then 37 years old.
Biazon sought to turn his life around through the ALS of the Department of Education (DepEd).
Hold to hope
“When I get out, if I have time I will study in college or vocational school, taking up courses like computer programming. Simple courses, not that long. What’s important is that I can finish it,” Biazon said.
Biazon said the ALS taught him to hold on to hope.
“There is a direction to head to. Just wait for a little time. Of course, there should be a little effort,” he said.
There were 13 inmates, Biazon included, who graduated from the high school program while three graduated from the elementary program.
Dr. Corazon Pumar, ALS Cebu Province division supervisor, said the graduates passed the accreditation and equivalency test administered in January this year.
Inmates went through a 10-month modular program whose lessons are parallel to those in conventional schools starting January of 2014.
“At first, we were hesitant in coming here. But when we came here, we saw how respectful the inmates were. Our implementors didn’t have to be afraid. They are all so good here,” she said.
Pumar assigned three implementors or ALS teachers at the jail.
Some teachers came from as far as Minglanilla town in the south and Consolacion town in the north. There are 189 inmates enrolled in various ALS programs.
Aside from the elementary and high school accreditation, ALS also offers the Basic Literacy Program (BLP) for those who cannot read nor write.
Graduates were awarded certificates signed by Education Secretary Bro. Armin Luistro.
“Come to think of it, their certificates have more weight than those in regular schools,” Pumar said.
She said the fresh graduates can enroll in advanced courses under the program.
Orley Perico, an implementor from Consolacion National High School, said they are happy whenever they see their students graduate.
“I see that they are working hard even behind bars. Our efforts are not wasted,” he said.
Marco Toral, Capitol consultant on jail matters, said ALS was introduced to the inmates to give them a chance to pursue an education and do something constructive in their idle time.
In a speech during the graduation rites yesterday, Toral urged the graduates to pursue higher education.
“Never back down. You will not rot here. Someday, all of us will be set free,” he said.
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