ArchivesFebruary 2011FU kids become ‘parents’ for a month

FU kids become ‘parents’ for a month


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At the age of 16, Chester Pis-an is still too young to be a father.

But as a high school senior at Foundation University, Pis-an knows some things about fatherhood that many people his age do not.

“Babies are heavy. You can’t put them down,” he said.

Pis-an knows whereof he speaks.

Every day during February, he and fellow senior and junior students at FU High School are made to carry a “baby,” actually a doll filled with three kilograms of rice.

For one month, these dolls, called Baby Bags, become part of the students’ lives.

They are required to carry the dolls, which they make in sewing class, like they would a real baby in their homes, classrooms and in the mall.

“It’s difficult to go to school with the baby bag in tow,” Pis-an said, “because you have to carry it even while doing your seat work and other class activities.”

Two weeks into this exercise, Pis-an said the lesson is clear–it’s difficult to be a father at a young age. “We also get lectures about the disadvantages of premarital sex,” he said.

To reinforce their parenthood experience, teachers would check the students’ dolls during class and grade them on the manner that they attend to their “babies.”

When the students neglect their “babies,” the teachers would “kidnap” the dolls and collect P100 in “ransom.” Kristine Joy Pillo, 17, said this scheme always keeps students on their toes.

Aira Kane Chan, another fourth year student, said this exercise has reinforced her belief against having a baby at an early age.

“It’s not easy to be bringing a baby around, and we’re even just bringing dolls!” she said.

“Kapoy! Bug-at! (It’s tiring [because she’s] heavy)” said Aldwanie Jane Bermudez, 16. But she, too, is wary of neglecting her baby. Her doll had been “kidnapped” once.

Mary Rose Acupanda, FUHS principal, said the practice has been around before she joined the university nine years ago.

“This was introduced by our president, Dr. Mira Sinco, and this has proven to be fun and very successful,” said Acupanda.

She said it could have been a response to cases of teenage pregnancies in the past. While teenage pregnancies are no longer a problem now, the practice went on.

She recalled that some parents were initially opposed to the idea, expressing fears that lugging around three-kg dolls would take a toll on their children’s health.

“But gradually, they saw the practicability and effectiveness of this program,” said Acupanda.

The program also caused a stir among Dumaguete folk late last month, especially when they saw students buying baby clothes at a local department store.

“The people thought the students were already teenage parents,” Acupanda said.

Because the students have to carry the dolls like a real baby around town, people also ask them about what was in their arms–until they see that it was just a bag of rice, Acupanda said.

At the end of the one-month program, Acupanda said all the “ransom money” is given back to the students in the form of candies and snacks. The rice, which could reach a total of five 50-kg sacks, is donated to the university’s rice conservation advocacy called “Rice is Life.”

“This way, we do not only teach the children about the difficulty of early parenthood, but we also help the university,” she said.

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