“These computers are your access to the world. Here’s your chance to see the rest of the Philippines and the world through these computers,” Kenney said during the simple turnover rites.
The computer laboratory package is part of the Computer Literacy and Internet Connection (CLIC) program of the US Agency for International Development (USAid)-funded Growth with Equity in Mindanao (GEM) program.
Kenney, who is on her first visit to the area, was accompanied by USAid-Philippines deputy mission director Frank Donovan and economic growth advisor Robert Barnes.
The CLIC package, worth P327,000, is composed of a wireless broadband Internet connection, seven computers, a printer, books on computers and the Internet, 150 e-books and Microsoft (MS) Office Program Suite.
The program also provides an MS Office specialist for selected teachers as well as training on personal computer and Internet maintenance, troubleshooting and repair for the school’s information technology coordinator.
The computer laboratory, one of 11 packages provided by the program in South Cotabato, was delivered on August 28 last year. The installation was completed last January.
Kenney urged the 416 students of NBNHS to make use of the computers “to learn more about the Philippines, learn what makes it special and to go beyond and look at the rest of the world.”
“I first learned about the Philippines from an Internet. Now that I am here, it’s even better. This is a wonderful and blessed country,” she said.
She said the US government will never hesitate to provide such kind of help to the Philippines stressing the “American people are very proud to be your partner.”
“There’s nothing that inspires us more than seeing wonderful children like you. You are the future of this country, you are the people that we count on to make the Philippines as prosperous, as peaceful and exciting as it should be,” Kenney added.
The Ambassador later spent some time for an interaction with selected students at the computer laboratory and at the turnover of more computer-related reference materials.
From Polomolok, she proceeded to neighboring General Santos City for a luncheon meeting with the business sector and local government officials from South Cotabato, Sarangani and General Santos.
According to a briefer prepared by GEM, the CLIC program is continuing computer literacy initiative for students and teachers in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and other conflict-affected areas in Mindanao.
“Through the CLIC program, students would be able to establish email accounts, communicate with other students throughout the world and conduct Internet-based research on various academic topics,” GEM said.
It added that the CLIC package would help teachers enhance the students’ learning experiences by augmenting classroom lessons with additional materials obtained from the Internet.
Ruth Estacio, NBNHS Principal, said the school launched computer classes this year because of the CLIC package.
She said they initially opened computer subjects as electives for third and fourth year students, about 45 percent of whom belong to various minority tribes.
“It’s a big help to everyone here in our school. Both our students and the 16 teachers are starting to have basic knowledge abut computer operations and the Internet,” she said.
Mayor Isidro Lumayag expressed his gratitude for the “blessing” from the US government for the school and the entire community. “This will help us produce globally competitive students and well- equipped future leaders of our communities,’ he said.
He also promised to support the maintenance of the program by assisting the school’s Parents – Teachers-Community Association (PTCA), which will take over the payment of the Internet connection after the first year.
Happy Raagas, CLIC program manager, said the program supports the efforts of the government and the Department of Education to integrate computer education and Internet literacy in schools.
In South Cotabato, she said 11 public high schools in five municipalities have already been assisted by the program.
“Another eight schools from the province are in the pipeline for assistance for the fourth quarter of this year. These schools will receive one-year free Internet connection, computers, printer, training for teachers on computer and Internet use,” Raagas announced.
The CLIC program is being implemented with the assistance of private companies and foundations that includes Microsoft Corporation, Intel, IBM and the Ayala Foundation Inc.
The CLIC program has so far provided Internet connections and Internet-connected computers to about 370,000 students under 11,000 teachers in some 385 high schools and comprehensive schools in the ARMM and other conflict-affected areas in Mindanao.
By August next year, the program expects to cover at least 650 schools in Mindanao. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)