It is an everyday battle for a dreamer like Jessica Nisperos, a member of Kankanaey tribal group in Sitio Mapita, Aguilar who aspires of becoming a teacher—that she might face difficulties in her studies and be “left behind” as she enters the collegiate arena.

With the upshot of pandemic, she and other tribe members could not shake off worries this coming school year in coping up with the online platform especially that they are situated in a farflung area of Barangay Laoag.

This story of Jessica is not far from other marginalized sectors of student population who feel that inclusivity fades away in the academic air— a dream known as ‘Education for all’.

Article 1 of World Declaration on Education for all in 1990 states that “every person- child, youth and adult- shall be able to benefit from educational opportunities designed to meet their basic learning needs…”

With the inspiring story of Jessica, reality comes close as Pangasinan State University crafted an institutionalized guidelines to provide special assistance on student services for marginalized sectors specifically for Indigenous people (IP) group members, Persons with disabilities (PWDs) and Out-of-School Youths (OSYs).

Based on the university data, there are 462 students who are within these classifications based on the record of the University Admission and Guidance Office, 162 of which are among the members of Indigenous groups.

With the new set of guidelines, the members of the above-mentioned groups are automatically admitted but are still required to undergo admission and enrolment procedures both for board and non-board programs.

In Lingayen Campus, there are already seven incoming students who were accommodated from admission to interview to enrolment and one of those students is Jessica.

“Makahalong emosyon po ang nararamdaman ko. First, I am so blessed that I will now be part of PSU. I feel nervous at the same time because this is a new journey in my life,” Jessica, who enrolled in Bachelor in Secondary Education in English program, ecstatically espressed during an interview.

She added that the new university program for inclusive education is a big help for them.

Guidance Counselor Beverly Fernandez orienting parents from the Kankanaey tribe regarding Lingayen Campus’ curricular offerings and other services.

Last May 22, the campus spearheaded by the Guidance Office reached out to the Kankanaey to conduct career guidance to orient young tribe members about the curricular offerings and student services.

“For us, it is like a new door of opportunity that opens wholeheartedly,” the Kankanaey youth said.

Citing Republic Act No. 8371 or the Indigenous Peoples Right Act (IPRA) on recognition and protection of the rights of indigenous cultural communities, it mandates the State to “provide equal access to various cultural opportunities to the IPS through educational system, public or cultural entities, scholarship grants and other incentives…”

Developing tailored and culturally appropriate educational programs for indigenous learners should be a priority— so that for Jessica and other members of marginalized groups, they will not worry anymore.

In the university, this is not the first time to develop programs for Indigenous people. It can be remembered that one the flagship projects of the Extension Office is focused on improving lives of grassroot communities.

Community projects like putting up community pantry, tablet and sim card donation for students and livelihood programs were some of the set agenda to make sure that the institution addresses the pressing challenges of communities like the Sitio Mapita.

“And because I am now [a] student of PSU. I commit to give my best in studying very hard until I reach my dreams and be able to give back to my community,” Jessica said.

For Jessica, Beverly Garcia (BSBA), Mylene Temario (BIT GFD), Jordan Lomboy (BIT Electrical), Michael Mangaliag (BIT Electrical), Jessica Nisperos (BSE English), Mary Joy Garcia (BS Math CIT) and Meraly Marian (BS Math CIT), their had already taken their first step on their dreams as they become true-blooded PSUnians.

Recalling that education is a fundamental right for all people, women, and men, of all cultures, it is just right to note that quality education should always be partnered with inclusivity. Thus, PSU-Lingayen Campus is always committed in making sure that no learner is left behind— Education for all, PSU for all. /mmpd