PALO, Leyte – Dionisio Montajes, Jr., 21, is to leave his hometown of Merida in Leyte next month to work abroad with a promise to help his mother and two younger siblings of a good future. “I promised my mother to help her and my younger sisters. And working abroad will just be the beginning of that promise to them,” Montajes said. Montajes dream to work abroad came into a reality after he was accepted by a company based in Saudi Arabia, months before he finished his senior high school at Merida Vocational High School. He is assured of a P25, 000 monthly salary, more than enough to provide the needs of her family and send her younger sisters to school. His father, Dionisio, Sr. died on May 20 and was buried a day before he accepted his diploma and credentials as a license automotive mechanic. On March 30, Montajes joined 99 others in a graduation rites held at the municipal hall of this town. “My father died because of illness on May 20 and we just buried him yesterday (May 29). I will assume the responsibility of sending my two younger sisters to school,” said Montajes, whose mother, Normita, 39, broke into tears during the commencement exercise. Montajes family now lives in his grandmother’s house in Macario village, Merida town, after Yolanda totally destroyed their house. Students from model schools of Palo National High School in Palo town and Merida Vocational School in Merida were the last batch of senior high school who graduated this academic year in 33 model schools nationwide. Department of Education Secretary Armin Luistro commended the students for their resilience and the courage to continue their education even if they lost their loved ones and houses during the storm. “You are battered, but not defeated. You are proof that Filipinos are stronger than the supertyphoon. I encourage you to use your skills to rebuild Leyte,” Luistro told graduates during the graduation rites held at the Palo town hall on May 30. The program blended academic and vocational skills of students that would make them prepared for employment, after 12 years of basic education. “This is a different graduation since students are more matured than high school graduates. They did not just receive high school diploma, but also a national certification from TESDA (Technical Education and Skills Development Authority),” Luistro said. The first 100 enhanced basic education graduates in Leyte will be employed by Andok’s Litson Corporation, Accudata, MAC Builders, Inc., Toyota Tacloban, Kia Motors Ormoc, Automedic, and a firm in Saudi Arabia. Of all the graduates, only 10 will proceed college education. Graduates received national certification II for commercial cooking, housekeeping, food and beverages services, computer hardware and servicing, welding, pipefitting, automotive servicing, driving, and motorcycle and engine servicing. Nationwide, there are about 4,000 to 5,000 graduates of K to 12, representing the model batch in all regions nationwide. Leyte held the last graduation rites for senior high school nationwide as storm impact disrupted classes. “There are many challenges in the piloting of the program, but we are improving it. The curriculum is being developed by different government agencies and employer’s group,” The DepEd began the enhanced basic education program by launching universal kindergarten in school year 2011-2012, followed by a new curriculum for Grade 7 in school year 2012-2013. School year 2016-2017 will mark the formal implementation of the Grade 11 curriculum, to be followed by the Grade 12 curriculum in school year 2017-2018. (SARWELL Q.MENIANO)