Every year, hundreds of Lasallians are required to take the National Service Training Program (NSTP) pursuant to Republic Act No. 9163 or the NSTP Act of 2001. Recognizing the youth’s role in nation building, the act mandates that all tertiary level students be required to take NSTP as a requisite for graduation.
For Lasallians, two specialized components are currently being offered under the NSTP, namely, the Civic Welfare Training Service (CWTS) and the Literacy Training Service (LTS). As of press time, the University’s Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program is still undergoing evaluation.
Behind the modified NSTP groups
To address strains regarding schedules, extra- and activities, and health-related problems, the Center for Social Concern and Action (COSCA) offers modified NSTP variants. In an interview with The LaSallian, NSTP Team Leader and COSCA Special Projects Coordinator Carl Fernandez explains that there are three modified NSTP groups to cater to several students.
“First, we have the athletes whom we consider as a modified class; second, we have the artists, members of the Culture and Arts Office (CAO); and third, we have the group forming the students with medical conditions and physical limitations,” Fernandez explains. Students for the first two groups are endorsed by the Office of Sports Development and the Culture and Arts Office, while students with medical conditions are granted enrollment to the program through personal application. Last academic year, DLSU’s modified NSTP catered to three artist sections and four athlete sections.
According to Fernandez, under the modified NSTP scheme, students still follow the same modules that regular CWTS and LTS students use in class. However, the main difference lies in the schedules. “For instance, the athletes cannot follow the regular schedules of CWTS and LTS, so sometimes they have Friday sessions. The same applies for artists who may have productions during Saturdays,” Fernandez shares.
Modified NSTP students, according to Fernandez, still get deployed, travel to communities in jeeps, and immerse with the partner communities similar to students enrolled in regular NSTP. However, modified NSTP sessions are manned by specialized facilitators that cater to the special groups. Fernandez also adds that there are special inputs for the modified sessions.
Students under modified NSTP for medical concerns still participate in immersion, although they are assigned to barangays within short distance from the campus to address ease of access and problems related to their health. “These students were assigned to nearby barangays, particularly the [Alternative Learning System] center. Specifically, for those with physical limitations and health concerns, we bring them to barangays within walking distance so they could still experience immersion,” Fernandez states.
Concerning safety and security
In order to maintain safety before, during, and after community immersion sessions start, COSCA places high importance in training, management, and skills preparation of facilitators in order to ensure student safety and security. For Fernandez, this entails numerous precautions on the part of COSCA.
NSTP facilitators must undergo a rigorous training set in order to prepare them before they start facilitating sessions and immersions. “The facilitators all underwent a series of orientations and trainings in management of students, communities, project development, monitoring, and evaluation,” Fernandez shares. These trainings also cover other people involved, such as partner organizations and community personnel. Jeepney drivers who are hired for student deployment are also handpicked, screened, and oriented before enlistment into service. “We conduct orientation with the drivers in coordination with the local barangays and operators,” adds Fernandez.
For Fernandez, proper coordination is the key to ensure student safety during immersion in partner communities. “We forge partnerships with the partner organizations, deploy COSCA personnel to orient the community in student immersions, and employ measures to maximize student safety during immersions,” he states. In order to ensure that someone in the community commits to student safety, COSCA conducts contract signings, including a Memorandum of Understanding and Terms of Reference signing for facilitators. After immersions, the facilitators and community partners are also called for grading and evaluation to monitor their work.
As of press time, COSCA has partnerships with 36 partner communities and organizations.
On accidents and untoward incidents
Some students have experienced untoward incidents during immersions, including but not limited to road accidents and sexual and physical harassment.
Kenneth Cortez (I, MEM-MR) narrates, “Some kids will not listen and would throw stuff at you. There also was this other kid that wanted to throw at me the scissors she had found.” However, Cortez reveals that in time, the situation became better for him.
Meanwhile, Nicole Uy (I, LIM-BSA) shares that her section would repeatedly get into accidents during immersion sessions. She recounts that on the first immersion, a jeepney broke down. She shares that on the second, one of the jeepneys assigned to their section hit a motorcycle while travelling, and, on the third, a car hit one of their jeepneys.
In terms of dealing with facilitators, Uy also adds that their instructor refuses to believe anything other than his view that the students “did not pray hard enough, so the accident was their fault.”
“Our facilitator scolded us. He said that we were not taking NSTP seriously and he was implying that the accidents were our fault,” she shares.
Monitoring is essential to reduce the possibility of untoward incidents during fieldwork, according to Fernandez, in addition to close coordination and preparations. “Very open communication lines between the facilitators and the stakeholders in the community exist to convey concerns during immersion,” he states.
Fernandez emphasizes the importance of close communication because COSCA cannot handle all the concerns alone. “There are a lot of [immersion sites] scattered around the region and a total of 151 NSTP sections mobilized this year. We cannot do it alone,” Fernandez explains.
Another measure that COSCA takes to suppress possible accidents is to thoroughly check the jeepneys. “We have a staff who makes tests to make sure that the jeepneys are okay,” Fernandez shares. “The approved jeepney’s plate number exists on the driver’s ID so that the drivers could not just use any available jeepney at hand,” he adds. Additionally, drug tests are also administered to jeepney drivers. He also notes that all jeepneys used in NSTP deployment are endorsed by the partner communities. “We only take jeepneys introduced by the communities, local leaders, and their operator associations in order to have someone accountable when concerns arise.”
Fernandez also shares that documentation is essential whenever problems arise. “Any problems that the students encounter on the way to the partner communities are all documented so we can assess concerns and investigate problems as needed,” he says.
When handling untoward incidents, Fernandez firmly establishes that COSCA employs due diligence to do everything in their power to prepare facilitators, partners, and personnel for immersions. For him, following protocol is always necessary when handling incidents. Affected students during immersion sessions are always brought to the nearest hospital to attend to their needs.
“All the facilitators and even the jeepney drivers know this protocol, such that whenever a student needs medical attention, they would be able to respond,” he says. These protocols also include reporting to and communicating with area coordinators, formation coordinators, and community service coordinators whenever problems arise. He elaborates that precautions, such as having three jeepneys per section, are made in order to have backups in case problematic incidents happen.