Students in Zamboanga City show their new books donated by The Asia Foundation.
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Jan. 17, 2011) - The Asia Foundation’s Books for Asia program in the Philippines distributed some 5,000 new children’s books to 85 public elementary schools, including the Kristiyano-Islam (Kris) Peace Library in Zamboanga City in Mindanao.
The Asia Foundation’s Deputy Country Representative Ky Johnson and Books for Asia Director Efren Balajadia attended the event, along with representatives of the recipient schools.
With support from the Rotary Club of Zamboanga City, the book donation reflects Books for Asia’s continued commitment to education and literacy in Mindanao.
Access to children’s books is a valuable tool in the campaign against illiteracy and poverty among communities in Zamboanga City and the rest of Mindanao. Books are vital to the learning and rehabilitation of these areas that are in critical need of educational resources.
“This is a great occasion as we make books available for children – indigenous, Christian, and Muslim – in various parts of the Philippines. We will leave no communities behind as we continue supporting public and private partners to distribute books around the country,” Johnson said.
Efren Peñaflorida, Jr., the 2009 CNN Hero of the Year who started a "pushcart classroom" in the slums of Manila to provide an alternative to gang membership, was the featured Guest Speaker at the event.
Peñaflorida, who was previously conferred by Philippine President Benigno Aquino III as one of The Outstanding Young Men of the Philippines for 2010, inspired all students through his experiences.
As he passionately shared, “I have come to realize the responsibility to other people. I have learned a valuable principle that if there is a need, I should do a little something to meet it. I promised to myself to do my best to study well and excel in school, to love learning and use education as a springboard to help other kids being discriminated socially.”
He also spoke about his responsibility. “I have made a decision and I will pursue education and help to change the badly damaged educational system in the country. This has become my new mission,” he said.
Zamboanga City is one of the premier and oldest cities in Mindanao. It now serves as a center of economic activities not only in the region but also in the country. However, like many other places in the Philippines, education is still a major concern in this highly urbanized city.
Continuous upgrading of school facilities and instructional materials is needed to sustain the increased literacy rate of the region. In most remote communities, there are schools that have no electric power and suffer to 1:60 teacher-pupil ratio in a single classroom.
“All school children can benefit from Books for Asia. For fifty-six years we have reached more than 40,000 schools all over the country. With the help of our local leaders and private partners, we hope to bring the program to the most remote and impoverished schools in the Philippines,” Balajadia said.
The Asia Foundation also acknowledged the unrelenting support of American publishers, especially Pearson Education and McGraw-Hill Companies, for donating brand new children’s books. (With a report from the Mindanao Examiner)