It was a sunny day on July 18 when members of the South Upi Project Management Team (PMT) went to Cotabato City to receive a back-to-school present from Candlelight Books, USA. The drive from South Upi to Cotabato took 4 hours of travel on rough terrain but the trip was well worth it for 250 colorful and nearly-brand-new storybooks were waiting for new homes in the municipality’s elementary schools. The books were a gift from Candlelight Books, an initiative run by Ms. Minotte Cuenca from California, USA, to bring storybooks and learning materials to needy communities in the Philippines.
Colored story and picture books from Antioch, California donors and neighbors.
The members of the PMT were very pleased when the big balikabayan box revealed an assortment of books, pictures and even toys for storytelling. They were very excited especially since the need for such materials was raised to Synergeia during the teachers’ training held in April. Synergeia informed the group that unlike the first shipment of books, all Candlelight Books donations were sent to one municipality for this batch - to achieve scale and wider impact.
Children reading their local mimeographed textbooks.
The PMT held a meeting to discuss the mechanics of the storybook distribution. They decided to prioritize schools that already have existing mini-libraries to ensure that the books will be utilized and be maintained properly. Timaan Central School received 114 books while Pandan Elementary School received 130 books.
Students were very happy when the books were brought to class for reading sessions. Their eyes were bright with wonder upon seeing brightly colored pictures and reading about stories from other lands. Teachers expressed their deepest thanks to Candlelight Books and Synergeia, for providing them with these materials.
Existing library at South Upi School in Mindanao--mimeographed, old and uninteresting reading material
The PMT looks forward to helping the rest of the 31 elementary schools in South Upi to put up their own reading corners and libraries, with the support of partners.
- Alvin Palao, Site Coordinator, South Upi, Maguindanao
South Upi, a fourth class municipality in the province of Maguindanao, is one of the newly opened programs of Synergeia in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). There are 1,312 grade one pupils in the municipality participating in a Synergeia reading program, which is supported by Telengtan Foundation. Half of the town is located along the coastal areas while the other half are locate in upland communities. Because of this topography, children have to travel several kilometers everyday to go to school. 90% of classes are multi-grade, meaning students from grades 1 to 3 are grouped in one class, as with grades 4 to 6. In an assessment examination, 9 out of 10 pupils can only read 3 out of 10 words correctly.