DUBAI // Jaymar Santillan no longer needs to worry about paying for his books and other living costs while attending university.
The 16-year-old first-year accounting student at University of the Philippines Visayas is being supported through his studies by the university's UAE alumni association. It has run its Adopt-A-Scholar programme for underprivileged students since 2007.
The annual grant of 78,000 pesos (Dh6,558) is expected to make a difference for Jaymar and his family, whose annual income is just 18,000 pesos (Dh1,513).
"There are poorer students than us, who also deserve the scholarship," Jaymar said. "This is going to be one of the happiest Christmas for me and my family."
Since June, Jaymar has struggled on 800 pesos a week (Dh67), sent by his mother Jocelyn, 48, who works in the Antique province in the Philippines. His father Joseph died of a heart attack in 2005, when he was 10, leaving his mother to raise him and his 18-year-old sister Jeline Marie.
"I pity my mother," said Jaymar. "She has hypertension but she's working hard to send us to school." Mrs Santillan works as a domestic helper for a relative. She takes two children to school and does the household chores, including washing clothes by hand.
"My husband's sister gives me 1,500 pesos and sometimes 2,000 pesos every month," she said. "The scholarship is a big help for our family. I want my children to have a good future."
Jaymar was an honours student through school. "My mother told us that the only inheritance that she can leave us is a good education," he said. "After I graduate I plan to take the board exams and hope to become a certified public accountant."
The state university waived his tuition fees because of the family's low income, but his mother still had to pay for his accommodation, food, laundry and other expenses.
The alumni group's scholarship programme is for students whose families make no more than 250,000 pesos (Dh21,000) a year. Its grants are given as a book subsidy and monthly cost-of-living allowance.
Janice Ong, the president of the alumni group, said providing a good university education to "scholastically deserving but economically underprivileged Filipino students" was one of its top priorities.
In March this year, the alumni group's first scholar, Sheara Jane Jamaluddin, now 21, completed her four-year biology course at the University of the Philippines Mindanao.