Zamboanga City, January 14, 2011 — The Asia Foundation’s Books for Asia program in the Philippines today distributed 5,000 new children’s books to 85 public elementary schools including Kristiyano-Islam (Kris) Peace Library in Zamboanga City. With support from the Rotary Club of Zamboanga City (RCZC), the book donation reflects Books for Asia’s continued commitment to education and literacy in Mindanao.
Key officials present at the occasion included Zamboanga City Mayor Celso Lobregat, Western Mindanao State University President Dr. Grace J. Rebollos, Executive Director of Zamboanga City Chamber of Commerce and Industry Foundation Mr. Dante E. Corteza, and 2009 CNN Hero of the Year Mr. Efren Peñaflorida, Jr. The Asia Foundation’s Philippines Deputy Country Representative Ky D. Johnson and the Philippines Books for Asia Director Efren N. Balajadia attended the event, along with representatives of the recipient schools.
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. According to Johnson, “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.”
Mr. Efren G. 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. 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.”
One of the oldest cities in Mindanao, Zamboanga City now serves as a center of economic activity 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. In most remote communities, there are schools that have no electric power and suffer from a 1:60 teacher-pupil ratio in a single classroom.
The Asia Foundation acknowledges the support of American publishers, especially Pearson Education and McGraw-Hill Companies, for donating brand new books; and local forwarder in Zamboanga City, World Link Services, Inc. which helped shipped the books.