TACLOBAN CITY – Days after graduating with honors from senior high school, a 66-year-old grandmother from Catarman, Northern Samar said it is not too late to pursue her lifelong dream of earning a college degree.
Josie Isanan Balasta has been gathering all documentary requirements to enroll in a private tertiary school in Catarman town to take up an education course.
“I don’t want to waste time and I will process my college enrollment next week. All my five children have already earned their college degrees. It’s my turn to study now,” Balasta said, adding that circumstances prevented her from finishing high school during her younger years.
Her mother, Elena, who was a first aid responder during World War II, died in 1961 when Josie was just five years old. Her father, Godofredo, was left alone to support five children by farming and running a small business in Catbalogan City.
“When I finished elementary, my stepmother strongly opposed my plan to pursue secondary education due to poverty. I was forced to leave Samar and worked as house helper in Manila,” she recalled.
In Manila, she married Sabino at the age of 18 in 1974. The couple moved to her husband’s hometown in Gamay, Northern Samar in 1979 when her mother-in-law died. They later settled in Catarman, the provincial capital for easier access for their five children to tertiary schools.
The couple supported their children’s studies through their small furniture shop business. Her husband died in 2017.
“In 2019, I decided to take up the Alternative Learning System (ALS) for one year to complete junior high school and finished the senior high school (SHS) for two years. I had to do this to pursue my dream of earning a college degree,” Josie said.
On July 9, she graduated with honors from the SHS class of Galutan National High School in Catarman. Rustia, 22, her youngest daughter who recently graduated from college, accompanied her during the graduation rites. Some of her 12 grandchildren also came to congratulate her.
“I was in my second year in college when my mother enrolled in high school through ALS. I hope that my mother’s story will inspire others not to stop pursuing their dreams regardless of their age,” Rustia said.
Josie’s ALS mobile teacher Jean Baldostamo described the grandmother as a very diligent learner who never complained about complying with academic requirements. “She used to text us late at night or even go to our house to ask questions about school lessons and other school tasks. She always encouraged her classmate not to give up,” the teacher said in a Facebook post.
The ALS is a parallel learning system in the country that provides opportunities for out-of-school youth and adult learners to develop basic and functional literacy skills, and to access equivalent pathways to complete basic education.
ALS aims to empower learners to continue learning in a manner, time, and place suitable to their preferences and circumstances. (PNA)