In a recent visit to a public elementary school, I asked a few students what they wanted to be when they grow up. Having studied in private schools all my life, I was expecting the typical answers of being a doctor, an engineer and even an astronaut but I was surprised when I heard them share that their dreams were to become a dancer in a noontime entertainment program and a laborer at their public market. I could not blame them given the fact that these are probably the only types of jobs that they have been exposed to in their early years. This experience made me again realize how important reading books are for children since books are the ones that open the minds of children to new possibilities, new experiences and eventually to new dreams that they can aspire for.
Less than 20% of our public schools have functional libraries
Unfortunately, many of us know that our public education system is in a crisis after being neglected for several decades by our government leaders. One major issue that is currently being addressed by our Department of Education are the students who are able to graduate from Grade 6 but have reading comprehension skills of Grade 3 students. Up until today, we still have many current high school students who are diagnosed to be non-readers which means that they can read the words or phrases from a book but they do not understand what these words or phrases actually mean. A major cause of this social problem in our public schools is the lack of books where students can actually learn how to read. Currently, less than 20% of our public schools all over the country have functional libraries with enough up to date books that children can read and learn from. In one public elementary school in Quezon City that I visited, the principal proudly said that they had more than 3,000 books but upon further checking I realized that half of those books were printed in the 1980s while another 1,000 pieces were of the same title and the rest were dilapidated already. Aside from this, their library looked more like a old, dusty and dark warehouse rather than a welcoming place for children to read and learn. Sadly, this kind of situation is prevalent all over the country.
AHON Foundation: Building dreams through building libraries
In 2006, the Acts of Hope for the Nation (AHON) Foundation, a corporate social responsibility initiative of Filway Marketing, Inc., started its mission of working with the Department of Education (DepEd) and public elementary schools all over the country to provide them with functional and well-equipped libraries. AHON does not just donate books but more importantly, it helps mobilize different stakeholders within the school and the community to refurbish and renovate their library. Every member of the community is encouraged to help and do their own share. For example, the teachers association will commit to raising funds to purchase new electric fans to provide proper ventilation while the parents association will work together to construct new tables and chairs that the students can use. Through this “bayanihan” spirit, the library does not just become the sole project of AHON Foundation or the school but it becomes owned by the whole community. In the end, AHON Foundation donates half a million pesos worth of brand new and slightly used books to fill up their library. Aside from this, AHON Foundation also works with other like-minded organizations such as the Rizal Library of the Ateneo de Manila University and the Bagong Kulturang Pinoy, Inc. (BKPI) to provide training to their librarians and teachers so that their libraries can now be maximized and put into good use.
To date, AHON Foundation has helped develop more than 60 libraries in Quezon City, Marikina City, Taguig, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Pangasinan, La Union and Southern Leyte. For more information about how you can help or volunteer, you can get in touch with Tippy Kintanar at (02) 433-1440 or send an email to [email protected] .