Education is not only a mean to gain knowledge but to create respect and empowerment. Among the indigenous people (IP) of Zambales, the Aetas, many are suffering from discrimination and disadvantages due to their low educational level. As the majority of the IPs lives at the edge of poverty, they count to the most marginalized and vulnerable groups in the Philippines.
Therefore it is difficult for children as well as for adults to attend a formal school. Everyone has to contribute to the family income in order to be able to feed themselves. Moreover, as most IP communities are located in remote areas, transportation is not always affordable for them and they have to travel long distances by foot.
In 2003, the Peoples Development Institute (PDI), in cooperation with SKF Phils Inc., initiated a Non-Formal Education Program for the Aetas in Zambales, the Edukasyong Pantao Para sa Ikauunlad ng Katutubo (EPIK). As an Alternative Learning System (ALS), regardless of age, gender or previous knowledge, IPs were encouraged to enrol into the program to learn the basics of writing, reading and calculating. Especially women who usually marry at an early age, become housewives and hence, are unable to continue formal school were targeted with the program.