GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/22 July) – A total of 588 public schools, colleges and other local institutions in Region 12 or Southwestern Mindanao received this week 28,000 new books and other educational reference materials from The Asia Foundation’s (TAF) Books for Asia program.
Efren Balajadia, program director of TAF-Books for Asia, said they delivered the new books in the last four days to public elementary and high schools, colleges and universities, public libraries and non-government groups in three provinces and two cities in Region 12 that were earlier identified as beneficiaries of its continuing book distribution program.
He said the four-day book distribution drive, which started last Tuesday, covered the provinces of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and the cities of General Santos and Tacurong.
“This is our modest contribution to help lessen the scarcity of books and educational materials in our public schools and other institutions here in Mindanao,” Balajadia said during a brief stop in Koronadal City for a ceremonial turnover of the books for beneficiaries in South Cotabato province.
In their initial swing in Alabel town in Sarangani, TAF-Books For Asia delivered 7,360 books for 118 elementary schools, 26 high schools, the provincial library and the municipal libraries of Alabel, Glan, Maitum and Maasim towns.
In South Cotabato, it turned over 7,240 books to 107 elementary schools, 32 high schools, three colleges, the provincial library and the municipal libraries of Banga, Polomolok, Tampakan and Tupi towns. A total of 62 elementary schools, 26 high schools, 13 colleges and universities, 2 non-government organizations and the city library here received 5,290 books.
In Tacurong City and Sultan Kudarat province, TAF-Books for Asia distributed 8,125 books to 123 elementary schools, 22 high schools, 7 colleges, a non-government organization, the provincial library, city library and the municipal libraries of
Bagumbayan, Kalamansig and Senator Ninoy Aquino towns.
Balajadia said the distribution of the books is aimed at complementing the programs and initiatives of the local governments in providing adequate educational facilities and in improving educational quality in their areas.
“We’re hoping that these books will help improve the reading skills of our students, widen their horizon and develop their critical thinking towards the development of a more peaceful Mindanao,” he said.
Balajadia said the book distribution drive in the area is supported by TAF’s Transparency and Accountability in Governance (TAG) program and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
He said the USAID mainly shouldered the freight and other delivery expenses of the books to their beneficiaries, which were also implementing separate initiatives under the TAG program.
Balajadia said each beneficiary received a box of brand new books under 50 different titles that were donated by US-based publishing companies like Mcgraw Hill and Prentice Hall.
The books received by each beneficiary were worth $600, said TAF-Books for Asia assistant program officer Reynald Ocampo. Balajadia said local schools who would want to avail of the program, which is centered since 2003 in Mindanao, may just write a simple letter of request to their office and they will be assured of prompt response, depending on their available stocks.
He said the prospective beneficiaries will need to shoulder the freight charges for the books through the “freight-collect” scheme of Aboitiz 2Go forwarder.
But for beneficiaries from South Cotabato, Gov. Arthur Pingoy Jr. assured that the provincial government will shoulder the freight costs for additional requests for books to the TAF-Books for Asia program. (Allen V. Estabillo / MindaNews)