US gives $50-M more for education of Mindanao’s out-of-school youth

The fund, benefiting 13 provinces, will be spread in five years after the program dubbed “Education Quality and Access for Learning and Livelihood Skills” (EQuALLS) was extended for another phase.

Mindanao has 27 provinces and 33 cities.

Philip Purnell, EQuALLS program specialist, said the program targets to benefit some 100,000 out-of-school youth through the establishment of community learning centers.

 “These learning centers will also serve the youth who never had the chance to go to school,” he said.

Hundreds of young people welcomed Purnell when he formally turned over two community learning centers in two different sites of this impoverished town blessed with fertile agricultural lands.

He urged the youth to take advantage of the learning centers so their quality of life will improve.

“With a wonderful location such as rice paddies and surrounding mountains, may the community learning centers inspire your thoughts in forming ideas that will help you achieve your dreams and hopes,” he told the audience.

Aside from offering basic knowledge in different fields of studies like math, science and English, the program provides livelihood skills training to the youth as well as trainings for teachers.

Purnell said that youth beneficiaries will be given equivalency tests to determine if they will qualify for college education. Target beneficiaries are those between 12 to 25 years old.

USAID is running the program here in partnership with the Champagnat Community College, the community extension arm of the Notre Dame of Marbel University in Koronadal City.

Noemi Silva, Notre Dame vice president for academic affairs, assured the school’s continued support to the project as it enables out-of-school youth access to education.

The second phase of EQuALLs kicked off several months ago and targets to establish thousands of community learning centers until 2011.

EQuaLLS is present in the six provinces of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao – Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-tawi-Maguindanao and Shariff Kabunsuan; in the Zamboanga Peninsula (Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga del Norte and Zamboanga Sibugay) and South and North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and Sarangani in Region 12.

The first phase, implemented from 2004 to 2006, benefited at least 30,000 out-of-school youth,  Purnell said.

A briefing paper said the United States Peace Corps in the Philippines also participates in the EQuALLS project through the Tudlo Mindanao (Teach Mindanao) program, which trains elementary and high school teachers in English and Information and Communications Technology as well as provides capacity strengthening for parents-teachers community associations. (MindaNews)