Sulu PTAs prove to be stellar fundraisers for their schools

Posted on Thursday, March 10th, 2011 and is filed under Feature. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

LAMITAN, BASILAN, Philippines—Some parent-teacher associations in the Sulu Archipelago island-provinces, which are among the most remote and underdeveloped areas in the country, have emerged as top fundraisers for the improvement of education services in their schools.

According to USAID’s Growth with Equity in Mindanao (GEM) Program, the PTAs of the following schools have raised about a quarter of a million pesos each to improve the quality of their children’s education: Mahardika Institute of Technology High School Department in Bongao, Tawi-Tawi; Claret School of Lamitan, in Basilan; and Notre Dame of Jolo High School in Sulu.

These funds were matched, peso for peso, by USAID’s GEM Program, through its Education Matching Grant Project. Commonly, the GEM-PTA funds are used to establish or improve mini-libraries, science laboratories, computer facilities, and multi-media centers, though they may be used for any legitimate educational purposes.

““Without the microscopes, computers and other items acquired with the help of the matching grant, our students would be less equipped for higher education,” said Sister Sulpicia Wate of the Claret school, which has roughly equal numbers of Muslim and Christian students.

“Our students are hungry for technology,” said Mary Aileen Papa, a guidance counselor at Notre Dame of Jolo high school. Now that they have the right laboratory equipment, she said, the students feel ready to compete at the tertiary level.

“Opportunities to get specific items needed in our school laboratories are few and far between, so parents are eager to raise funds to get this done,” said Gemma Ladjahasan, principal of the Mahardika high school.

Ladjahasan added: “The parents are market vendors and seaweed growers, with typical incomes, but they want to equip their children with a good foundation so they can go on to higher education and get good jobs.”

Tiaksa Sumayang, an ethnic Sama resident in Bongao, said that she and her husband, a tricycle driver, helped raise PTA funds because they wanted their son to learn as much as he could and to finish school.

To date, the GEM Program has provided education matching grants to benefit about  970 Mindanao schools—164 of them in the three Sulu Archipelago provinces—whose PTAs have collectively raised the peso equivalent of $1.1million; an amount that has been matched by USAID through its GEM Program.

Successful PTA fundraising in the Sulu Archipelago provinces is even more impressive given that  these provinces are among the lowest-ranked on the Human Development Index (HDI) rankings of the 2008/09 Philippine Human Development Report (PHDR), which covers the country’s 77 provinces and Metro Manila.

Tawi-Tawi, Sulu, and Basilan are among the five provinces ranked lowest in terms of life expectancy, school enrolment, literacy and income.

Some educators, like Sister Sulpicia, believe that negative conditions in these provinces, including widespread poverty and lack of security, have impelled some parents and teachers to enhance the quality of  their children’s education however they can.

“Parents tell me, ‘We don’t want our children to be like us.’ They see education as a way out of poverty and violence,” Sister Sulpicia said.

Although a private institution, Claret annually enrolls about 500 students who could not be accommodated in the overcrowded public high school system, through a special arrangement with the Department or Education. The student population totals approximately 1,500.

Claret PTA president Jose Regalado said that the alumni association provided funding support for the matching grant, as did the students themselves, who raised money through math and science club sales, and by recycling bottles.

Sister Sulpicia also pointed out that high transport costs compound the difficulty of island schools in getting the equipment and supplies they need.

Charles Jubay, GEM coordinator for education matching grants in Western Mindanao, described the several stages of a recent GEM delivery of school equipment—including computers, a printer, an electric generator, sewing machines and other home economics equipment —to a school in Manukmangkaw, Tawi-Tawi Province.

“In Zamboanga City, we loaded the delivery boxes onto a ferry, which takes 20 hours to get to Bongao, followed by a round- trip boat ride to fetch the generator in Sitangkay, four hours away, and finally a two-hour trip by banca to the school,” Jubay said.

PTA members lend boats to carry matching grant shipments on the last leg of the journey to outlying communities, Jubay said, adding, ”It seems that all possible forms of transport have been used to make matching grant deliveries—jeepneys, horses, habal-habal [motorcycles] and even carabao sleds.”

He noted: “In these remote, underserved places, parents seem to be more appreciative of the matching grant project, compared to schools in urban areas which have better access to services and supplies.”

For Sulu Archipelago schools, however, an education is not just the pathway to jobs and higher incomes.

“The main problem here in Sulu is the peace and order situation, with many young people drawn into unpeaceful acts,” said Mary Aileen Papa. “But education transforms the way people think and gives them the ability to create a new reality.”

This perception was echoed by Regalado in Basilan: “The members of these PTAs want their children to have good values, think clearly, and do well in life. And the best way to ensure this is to give them a good education.” GEM

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