Lia Jorges along with her classmates at Nord Anglia International School Manila, have embarked on a mission to empower the nation’s youth.
They have designed the Boto Mo Bukas Ko programme, meaning “your vote is my future”, and have been working on creating voter education toolkits aimed at 11-17 year olds.
Lia said voting in the Philippines is often based on a candidate’s personality and popularity. Her and her classmates observed that posters of candidates seen in the city give little or no indication of what they stand for. BMBK teaches young people the importance of political institutions, good governance, leadership and integrity in politics and how their vote will impact the future of their nation.
“We think it’s important to educate people our age about proper citizenship, democracy, policy and legislation. All the things related to elections and voting before our time to vote comes,” Lia said.
Lia is no stranger to understanding the importance of encouraging young Filipinos to vote. Her mother, Natalie Christine Jorges, was the founding chair of Youth Vote Philippines, an alliance of youth organisations and groups, that work together to educate and empower young voters. The organisation’s goal is to teach young Filipinos about democracy and good governance and why their vote impacts the state of the nation.
Lia said during her mother’s tenure from 2012-2016, the organisation hosted a concert called Rock the Vote, inviting Filipino artists to sing about the importance of voting. The not-for-profit is now seeking new ways to spread their message.
Influenced by their mission, Lia and her classmates discovered there were no programmes aimed at school-going youth or future voters, so they decided to approach YVP with an idea of their own.
Inspired by YVP, the NAIS Manila students designed a voters’ education toolkit which includes a scorecard. The card has three sections - competence, credibility and knowledge - as categories to help students determine the most suitable political candidate.
Lia and her classmate will be presenting their idea at the Nord Anglia Education Student Summit in New York, in July.
An annual event exclusive to NAE schools through its collaboration with UNICEF, student ambassadors attending the summit must demonstrate how their school is working to meet the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) based on the Global Challenge set by the schools group.
Lia wanted her school’s idea to not only have gravitas, but it had to connect to her and her classmates too.
“We wanted to work on something that represented us,” Lia said.
Lia and her classmates are also working on building a mock-election board game, which they plan to present at the Student Summit. The project ties together the UN goals of good governance and quality education. The students hope to demonstrate how simple and easy the toolkit and game is to replicate and use in other countries.
News of the BMBK project has spread across the Philippines already. Last month Lia appeared on the Beyond Politics show on Philippine channel ANC. The NAIS Manila students are working with YVP to select schools to test their toolkit on. Lia said they also want to plan school trips to local government offices, the Philippines senate and the Mayor’s office too.
“Students should be able to explore these places,” Lia said.
“They should see where laws are made and how it ties into the importance of voting.”
NAE’s collaboration with UNICEF has helped the student parliament team up with the organisation’s Philippines branch and work with them to reach out to more young people about what they’re doing.
Sam Gipson, Head of Secondary Pastoral Care and Head of Humanities at NAIS Manila said it was a joy to help guide the student parliament to pursue a cause that is relevant and one they feel passionate about.
Yet one of the most gratifying parts of the project is how a classroom lesson has transformed into real-world learning.
“From a humanities perspective we want our students to understand the importance of voting rights,” Mr Gipson said.
“Lia and her classmates made that learning tangible. They created the tools to put their opinion into action and change the situation. They took the abstract and made it real.”