Notes from the Field

Books for Asia: Building Peace and Prosperity in Lanao Del Sur

August 19, 2009

This week, on August 16, The Asia Foundation’s Books for Asia program donated 35,000 new books to schools in the Mindanao province of Lanao Del Sur. After a simple distribution ceremony attended by two dozen officials from the provincial government and 740 public schools from across the province, the team from The Asia Foundation visited Datu Saber Elementary School.

Students at Datu Saber Elementary School await the arrival of the new books donated by The Asia Foundation.

Students at Datu Saber Elementary School await the arrival of the new books donated by The Asia Foundation.

Datu Saber is a primary school for students in grades 1 to 4 and is located in one of the poorest areas in the Islamic City of Marawi, capital of Lanao Del Sur Province. Schools in Marawi City received their first donation from The Asia Foundation in March 2006. Unfortunately, Datu Saber was destroyed by fire in 2007 due to faulty electrical wiring in the mostly wooden classrooms. Nothing was left after the tragic incident – books, desks, chairs, and classrooms were Datu Saber is a primary school for students in grades 1 to 4 and is located in one of the poorest areas in the Islamic City of Marawi, capital of Lanao Del Sur Province. Schools in Marawi City received their first donation from The Asia Foundation in March 2006. Unfortunately, Datu Saber was destroyed by fire in 2007 due to faulty electrical wiring in the mostly wooden classrooms. Nothing was left after the tragic incident – books, desks, chairs, and classrooms were completely destroyed.

Like most schools in Lanao Del Sur, each classroom is divided and shared by several classes in different sessions throughout the day. There are three students sharing a single desk, two classes are held in one room, and the principal’s office also serves as a clinic, library, and sometimes even a canteen. According to Dr. Nordina M. Sarip, Assistant Schools Division Superintendent of Lanao Del Sur 2B in Malabang, conditions are even worse in other parts of Lanao Del Sur. Dr. Sarip told me, “One of the problems in their area is the presence ofRido.’” These volatile clan wars take place in some parts of Mindanao and force schools to suspend classes, as members of warring families may be forced to leave the community. Sometimes children are transferred to other schools in fear of attack or ambush. When students are transferred, said Dr. Sarip described the numerous problems arise with enrollment, shortage of learning materials like books and reference materials, and overcrowded schools buildings, classrooms and other facilities. “This is a major situation that affects our pupils, and this is one of the reasons why Lanao Del Sur students have low performance on both local and national examinations. This is the reality in Lanao Del Sur,” he said.

Based on information furnished by the Department of Education-National Educational Testing and Research Center (NETRC), Lanao Del Sur belongs to the poorest performers in the National Achievement Test conducted in March 2008. And some of the reasons for the poor performance can be attributed to instability, poverty, and limited resources, among many others.

However, there is hope in the eyes of many students who are determined to finish their studies. Dr. Sarip added, “The donation of new books from The Asia Foundation’s Books for Asia program offsets the lack of reference materials in core subject areas like Mathematics, Science, and English-language in this remote area of Lanao Del Sur. They [the reading materials] can improve the performance of our students in the years to come. As I look at this Mathematics book, I can attest that this book can attract the attention of the students. I really appreciate the updated books which are colorful and attractive, especially to the students in the lower grade levels. For those students that have been affected by clashes, the books can help bring back their enthusiasm to study when they return to school.”

As a student of Datu Saber Elementary School told me, “We are very happy because we have new reference books. This book All About Plants will be our next lesson in science class.”

Teachers hand out new books donated by The Asia Foundation to their students at Datu Saber Elementary School.

A teacher at Datu Saber Elementary School presents one of the new science books All About Plants to the students, which will serve as the next science lesson for the class.

Ky Johnson, Asia Foundation Deputy Country Representative, said that “through the donation of books, children and adults alike will be given the privilege to experience the most valuable things that writers from different places and from different times have to share.”

Hadji Abdulghaffar Musa K.S Diamla, Lanao Del Sur Provincial Cooperative Officer and member of the Philippines’ Peace Negotiating Panel and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Local Monitoring Team (LMT) for the Province of Lanao Del Sur, said, “The most important thing in a human being is education. Part of one’s education is learned through reading of books, therefore with these donations, The Asia Foundation has given us one-half of our life. That is how important these donations are to us.”

Teachers hand out new books donated by The Asia Foundation to their students at Datu Saber Elementary School.

Teachers hand out new books donated by The Asia Foundation to their students at Datu Saber Elementary School.

Efren N. Balajadia, Asia Foundation’s Director of Books for Asia concluded, “Many positive education-related interventions are happening in Lanao Del Sur and throughout Mindanao. Everyone must contribute in order to achieve the common goal of literacy. The support of local government, communities, principals, teachers, and enthusiastic students, all together, will build a future of peace and prosperity for Lanao Del Sur, as well as in this wonderful country.”

For more information about the event, read the press release.

The donation in Lanao Del Sur was made possible by the support of American publishers, including the McGraw Hill Companies, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and Pearson Education. The distribution also received valuable support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The Asia Foundation’s Books for Asia Program has distributed over 13 million books and journals to public and private institutions across the Philippines since 1954. Books for Asia donates books to all three of the island groups – Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.

Reynald S. Ocampo is The Asia Foundation’s Assistant Program Officer for the Foundation’s Books for Asia program in the Philippines. He can be reached at rocampo@asiafound.org.

View all posts by Reynald S. Ocampo

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One comment on this post:

  1. Esterlita Utar Cristobal:

    I thank you for giving books to Lanao Sur. I am hoping you coud do the same for this newly opened school in Lanao del Norte- the SULTAN NAGA DIMAPORO INTEGRATED SCHOOL ,Poblacion ,Sultan Naga Dimaporo, Lanao del Norte. This School is under Deped-lanao del norte Division. The school is still in its foundation stage and hae been looking for help for the construction of its buildings. I do hope you can help them with your books. Thank you very much.

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