ZAMBOANGA CITY (Darwin Wee / 27 Aug) Washington released some $85-million (P4 billion) in grant to support a five-year program that will help improve the educational system in Mindanao island in the southern Philippines, a top US official said.
US Chargé d' affaires Paul Jones, who visited here over the weekend to inspect several Washington-funded projects, said the $85-million fund aims to improve the quality of education and enhance skills of Filipino youth in the mineral-rich, but dangerous region.
Manila is fighting communist insurgency and terrorism in Mindanao.
But Jones said educational program started this year and it will help alleviate the educational status of thousands of elementary, secondary and government teachers in Mindanao.
He said that there is a need to present a range of opportunities to help young people in Mindanao to develop skills that are needed tobecome more active participants in a productive economy."It is fair to say that with stronger educational foundation such as in English language skills, and computer literacy, we can expect to seemore prosperity, more jobs, and more opportunity for the young people throughout Mindanao," he told the Mindanao Examiner.
"Clearly our investment is in education. One of the things we do well is to help teach English and that provide opportunities for people toparticipate in industries like call centers, back office processing, and other businesses that requires English language skills. In theglobal economy if you have those skills you can easily have more opportunities, and more jobs will be created," he said.
Jones said the program will result also to increase community-based learning opportunities, expansion of teacher capabilities in the areasof Math, Science, and English, and school reform within the Mindanao region.
He said the educational program which will be in partnerships with different Mindanao-based organizations will also develop livelihood skills and increase access to quality education for the thousands of out-of-school youth in Mindanao, which have been victims of war and poverty.
"The funds will address the educational and job training needs of out-of-school youth, and enhance opportunities for employment andentrepreneurship. Education is something we believe deeply. We got a history with education here, a hundred years ago Thomasites came here to Mindanaoas well as other parts of the Philippines to introduce education to the Filipino people, and it is something we would like to continue inthe present generations," he said.
Jones said the program would benefit strife-torn and poverty-stricken areas in Mindanao."There is a great desire and enthusiasm here in Mindanao to improve education and make education modern and relevant to the world we leavein," he said.
He said about 60 percent of the bilateral program of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is allocated toMindanao to initiate several programs which includes the implementation of projects related to livelihood, infrastructure, family planning and health; environmental governance and development of renewable energy, and the enhancement of local governance, especially in conflict areas.
This year alone the US government pledged a total of $70 million in grants to the Philippines, and a huge bulk allocated for the development of Mindanao, according to Jon Lindborg, USAID mission director.Over the past years, USAID assistance to the Philippines has averaged $90 million per year.