MANILA, Philippines -- With the quality of education in the country in dismal state, it is always a welcome sight to see local school authorities relying on their resourcefulness to improve the way their students learn.
In Cagayan de Oro City, a library hub that houses almost 50,000 books was built to reduce the non-readers among public elementary school pupils all over Misamis Oriental.
But officials said putting up the library hub was not easy even though half of the funds were already provided by the Department of Education and private donors provided the other half.
Parents and teachers of Cugman Elementary School have adopted the library hub and aimed to develop it as a wide source of primary books opened to all public school teachers and pupils in the province.
“The library hub is not your regular library. It is actually a warehouse of all reading materials that pupils can bring to their classrooms and even take home,” said librarian Corazon Pates.
“It is only a medium-sized library hub. There are bigger library hubs that can house more than 100,000 books. We expect more books to be donated so maybe after three years we can expand this building,” she added.
A one-story building with three classrooms had been renovated to give space to the dozens of shelves where the books are stacked in rows. Although not air-conditioned, the library hub looks like a commercial children’s bookstore.
Aside from textbooks, various reference materials are also available in the hub, including imported books for beginning readers, science and mathematics books.
There’s also a variety of fairy tale books with colorful pictures that lure young readers to the hub.
Grade 6 pupil Vincent Borres said he only discovered it was fun to read when he was in Grade 5.
“Since last year when the library hub was built, I always borrow books that I take home and read with my parents,” he said.
Among Vincent’s favorite books are ‘Ibong Adarna’ and ‘The Monkey and the Turtle,’ which he retells to his playmates.
“I love to read. We are thankful that we now have the library hub, we no longer need to buy the books we want to read,” Vincent said.
Kristin Ramos, 11, said her parents are happy whenever they see her reading.
“I learn a lot from reading, and the stories teach us good moral lessons,” she said.
Kristin then showed one of her favorite books, which has big, colorful pictures with an English-Tagalog translation. “I learned to speak good English because of these books,” she proudly said.
Teachers ask their pupils to submit a summary of the stories they read, library aide Maribel Octap explained.
“This way, the pupils learn to read and write in English. The translations in the book from English to Tagalog help them a lot to easily understand the story,” said Octap.
Children also learn responsibility in taking care of the books, she added.
“They use the books properly and they make sure everything they borrow is returned on time,” she said.
Pates said regular reading sessions for pupils in Cugman Elementary School has been the main factor of the school being able to post a 100-percent rise in reading rate.
“We are now No. 11 in the regional achievement test. Before the library hub was opened, we were way at the bottom,” she said.
School children in hinterland schools are encouraged to borrow the books from the hub.
Priority is given to schools where a higher number of non-readers are found, Pates said.
“Children in the rural barangays don’t get to read these kinds of quality books, unlike those in the city,” she said. Books can be borrowed for 20 days by the school principal or librarian. Pates said there’s no limit in the number of books that can be borrowed as long as the principal or the librarian gives assurance that these will be returned in good condition.
“We usually have a hard time transporting the books to the rural areas. It is really a sacrifice for the teachers who have to carry the books all the way to the schools, and they even have to shoulder the fare,” Pates said.
Villages with service vehicles sometimes offer to transport the books to the schools.
“We urge the teachers to get the support of local village officials so that books can be transported regularly and by the bulk,” Pates said.
Help from members of the community is always enjoined by school authorities to achieve their goal of raising literacy among the children according to Pates.
“Reading is the first step to functional literacy. Everyone, not only the teachers, but most importantly, the parents and the local officials, must do their share,” she said.
Dr. Wilfreda Famador, assistant chief of the elementary education department of DepEd in Northern Mindanao, said the library hub was actually conceived as an outreach project by the DepEd to minimize the number of non-readers among grade schoolers.
Of the hundreds of library hubs established around the country since June 2006, only 30—including the one in Cagayan de Oro City—have remained operational.
The thrust of the library hub project is to create a reading culture among children, Famador said.
“We encourage the principals to allow even the pre-school to use the books to expose them early to good reading behavior,” she said.
Famador, however, admitted that the DepEd does not have a budget to sustain these projects as all the department’s funds go to basic needs.
“We empower our principals to come up with ways to get the funding. We also seek the help of the private sector. Usually, the principals come up with a strategy, like soliciting books or utilizing the PTCA (Parents Teachers Community Association),” she said.
The strategy that Cugman Elementary School principal Dr. Arlan Paul Reyes has come up with yielded surprising results and became a model for other provinces.
Donations from parents and politicians alike poured in to finish the library hub.
Additional funds for plastic covers for the books were also solicited.
In June 2007, an extension project of the library hub was launched.
“We now conduct informal computer literacy training every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. Some politicians donated computers, which we now utilize for the training. We have a teacher who volunteered to teach computers with only a measly allowance,” Pates said.
The computer literacy training is open to the community. “Our students are not just the elementary pupils, but their parents as well. We also have out-of-school youth who were all very thankful for the computer training,” she said.
Copyright 2008 Philippine Daily Inquirer. All rights reserved.