Radin Celeste, 18, hails from the province of Negros Occidental. He is the eldest in a brood of four, and all of them are raised by a single mother.
Christian Rosas, 19, grew up in the province of Quezon. He is the second of four children. His father harvests coconuts for a living while his mother is a housewife. Christian’s dream is to become a soldier one day.
Shortly after they graduated from senior high school, Celeste and Rosas left their homes for the first time and flew to Manila to build a better future for their families. The two teenagers are currently studying at the Dualtech Training Center, a private technical-vocation (tech-voc) school in Calamba City, Laguna. Established in 1982 by a group of corporate executives, Dualtech adapts the German dual training system, where the students spend six months in school, and 18 months in the establishment’s more than 100 partner companies.
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Many of the students—60 percent to 70 percent of whom are from the Visayas and Mindanao islands—are sponsored by local government units (LGUs), individuals, private sectors, and non-profit organizations, including the ABS-CBN Lingkod Kapamilya Foundation.
The Dual System
Jerry Webb Muhi, executive director for Dualtech, says the Dualtech system tries to bridge the gap between graduates and employers. “A lot of times, the graduates have nowhere to go. Here, the students are trained according to the needs of the companies. We partner with the poorest communities of the Philippines, from the Babuyan Islands to the Province of Basilan.”
Today, there are 1,700 boys enrolled in the school—1100 of them are already undergoing on-the-job trainings to become technicians, machinists, welders, etc.
Before they enrolled at Dualtech, these boys, who are around 17-22 years old, have already passed the requirements of the partner companies. After the two-year course, many of them get absorbed by the companies who sponsor their training.
Since most of the students live far from home, they either reside in dorms outside of the campus, or they live with their foster parents in other partner communities.
“During the last two years, we’ve seen how the program meets the needs of our youth,” Muhi says. “Maybe if we have 10 more Dualtechs, it still will not be enough to cater to all the youth in need in the country. We need more buildings and more manpower so we can take in more students.”
Dualtech, too, serves as a social alternative for those who cannot afford the current K-12 education system, and they are regulated by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).
The students are required to pay a “participation fee,” for the six months that they would be in school. However, since many of them can’t afford the fee, the system allows for a study-now-pay-later scheme (like a student loan). Students who excel, however, would have a sponsor paying for their loan. There are other students, too, whose full “participation fee” is already paid for in-full when they enroll. These students are usually sponsored by individuals, corporations, and LGUs.
Muhi says there are individuals and corporations who would randomly get in touch and offer to sponsor students. Sometimes, the Dualtech team would go around partner communities and promote their school, which would inspire a few boys to enroll. Other times, it’s the LGUs that would voluntarily send their constituents to Dualtech—complete with allowance.
Inside the Campus
The facilities in the the current and only Dualtech school is more than enough for the students. The verdant campus holds well-maintained classrooms and laboratories, quiet and open-air spaces for studying, a huge assembly hall, an air-conditioned chapel, manicured gardens, and four touchscreen menus spread across the campus where the students can pre-order their meals.
And speaking of food, the cafeteria almost resembles a multinational company’s dining area. It’s almost like the students could get a feel of their future even before they get deployed. Not to mention Dualtech hired a chef, a graduate of the De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde, Manila, who whips up delightful dishes every day. Even the coffee they serve is at par with some of the popular cafes in the country.
The facilities are part of the school’s aim to mold well-rounded students. The other bigger part is the curriculum.
Every day, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., students can meet with their assigned mentors—sometimes to talk about their studies, but most of the time, the mentees talk about life. Life away from home can be lonely, and a good mentor could serve as a sounding board.
“Nagte-text naman kami o video call sa pamilya,” Celeste says of dealing with loved ones miles away. “Pero mga twice a month lang. Kapag lalo mo silang kino-contact, mas lalo mo pa silang mami-miss.”
The Dualtech program also gives importance to communication skills, budgeting, good manners, etc. When we asked Celeste and Rosas—who enrolled last June and April, respectively—what they’ve learned so far, they mentioned life skills more than anything.
“Natuto ako ng money management,” says Celeste, a tall, lanky, and courteous boy, who seems to have gained the confidence to converse with strangers. “Natuto ako sa kahalagahan ng oras at paano mag-communicate sa ibang tao.”
“Natuto akong makipagkaibigan,” Rosas says. The Quezon-born hopeful is the more taciturn of the two. “Budget din ng pera. Once na kulangin budget mo, iisipin mo kinabukasan, wala ka nang pera.”
Even as students, Celeste and Rosas are already sending money—from their allowance—to their hometowns. Celeste helps put his siblings to school, and even plans to send his two brothers to Dualtech once they graduate from senior high.
Rosas hopes that his training will help him get access to a military school one day: “’Tsaka, kailangan din naman ng mga mechanical na trabaho pag sundalo ka.”
In a few weeks, it will be Christmas Day. Celeste and Rosas will have to spend the special occasion on campus. And though they will be far away from their homes, the celebration will be a festive one. During this time, food donations are aplenty, and there is, of course, the exchange of gifts among the students.
The six-month training at the facility alone is intensive, and it can be really challenging at times. But for kids like Celeste and Roxas, the sacrifices will be worth it. Celeste recalls, “Si mama kasi, ang sabi niya sa akin, kung pinuntahan mo ang isang bagay at malayo pa, tapusin mo. At pahalagahan mo ang binigay sa ’yo.”
For more information on how you can support Dualtech, visit their website: http://www.dualtech.org.ph/
Photographs by Chris Clemente