Today is: Mon, May 20, 2013
PTA Unleashes Students' Potential In Sulu Archipelago School
HADJI PANGLIMA TAHIL, SULU—"Reading takes you anywhere" is painted in large letters on the wall of a tiny school in this municipality, which, to most eyes, would appear to be smack in the middle of nowhere.
The municipality of Hadji Panglima Tahil is composed of a group of small islands surrounded by the waters of the Sulu Sea, a long boat ride from the main islands of Sulu Province. Economically, it is isolated as well, and was once identified as the poorest municipality in the Philippines.
But on this sunny morning, the children of the Subah Elementary School are immersed in a different world—the wider world of scientific understanding and other types of knowledge found in books.
The teacher asks the students what an ecosystem is, and small, eager hands shoot up. She calls on Sharisma Ajing, who stands up and answers crisply and precisely.
"Sharisma is a shy child", said Linda Tacata, the school principal. "I hardly remember her reciting in class. It was only in Grade 6 that she started to speak up," Tacata recalls.
It was then that the school's Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) was able to provide the school with new books and reference materials, sewing machines for home economics classes, a personal computer with a printer, and other multimedia aids. The new resources seemed to energize Sharisma.
The PTA purchased the learning resources with the help of an education matching grant provided by USAID's Growth with Equity in Mindanao (GEM) Program. Through its Matching Grant Project, the GEM Program matches, peso-for-peso, the funds raised by PTAs of schools located in conflict-affected areas of Mindanao to improve education in their schools. As of mid-2009, USAID-GEM had awarded more than 800 education matching grants, worth more than $800,000, to PTAs. The school's PTAs raised the same amount through community fund-raising activities and local business support.
Previously, the students shared a small number of textbooks. Now they can borrow many new books from the small library established by the PTA, and can read outside of class hours.
The school's PTA also provides fuel for the electric generator which powers the computer on which the teachers run educational programs, which have helped motivate Sharisma and the other students to learn.
The determination shown by this and other PTAs in remote corners of Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago in raising funds and working with USAID to improve education is a clear manifestation of the importance parents in Hadji Panglima Tahil put on the education of their children.
"We are surrounded by water, but with the help of these learning aids our students can get to know about the bigger world."
—Linda Tacata, Principal, Subah Elementary School
"These [science books] are beautiful and interesting to read."
—Jaser Jalam, Grade 5 student
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