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A statistics major, Leticia Subang spent the first 10 years of her professional career as an economic reporter covering for the Philippines' leading business paper. She later opted to become a free lance writer while working for her Masters Degree in Development Management. In the next ten years, she worked for a number of leading government agencies - the National Power Corporation, Public Estates Authority, Departments of Trade and Industry, Agriculture, Labor and Employment, and Energy.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Building classrooms: Viable social project for firms

The Classroom Galing sa Mamamayang Pilipino Abroad (CGMA), a fund raising program of the Department of Labor and Employment that pools contributions from Filipinos working abroad to support the nationwide classroom building program for public schools is turning to be a viable option for local corporations interested in focusing on education for their corporate social responsibility projects.

Thirty-two local corporations are now supporting the program including automotive companies Isuzu Corp., Mitsubishi Corp., and Toyota Motor Philippines Corp; food manufacturers like Dole Philippines, Nestle Philippines and CDO Food Sphere Inc.; electronics giant Matsushita Group of Companies and pharmaceutical firm Pfizer.

“While our labor attaches are pushing this program in their respective foreign posts, we also hope to see more local corporate donors,” said Labor and Employment Secretary Patricia Sto. Tomas. “We will definitely be able to cover more areas, reach out to a lot more schools if we can convince the country’s leading corporations to support our program.”

Understandably, many of the CGMA corporate donors opt to support schools in areas where they are operating. CDO Food Sphere sponsored a classroom in Sto. Domingo Elementary School in Lubao, Pampanga while Dole Philippines contributed eight classrooms in Poblacion Polomolok National High School in South Cotabato. Nestle Philippines sponsored two classrooms each for Baclaran Elementary School in Cabuyao, Laguna and Tablon National High School in Cagayan de Oro.

Isuzu Corp.’s beneficiary is Binan National High School in Laguna; Mitsubishi’s is Cabcaben Elementary School in Bataan, and Toyota’s is Aplaya Elementary School in Sta. Rosa, Laguna. For Matsushita, the beneficiary is Jocobo Z. Gonzales Memorial National High School in Binan, Laguna.

The project is a collaborative effort of the Departments of Labor and Employment, Education and Foreign Affairs and the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Inc. which manages the actual construction of the buildings, said DOLE undersecretary Manuel Imson, who oversees the entire program.

Wider Reach

Through the CGMA program, corporations could gain wider reach since their donations would continue to bring benefits to the children and their communities year after year, even long after the construction activities have been completed, Imson added.

“They are also spared from having to handle complicated project-related tasks such as validation of titles and management of construction activities as the CGMA project office and our partner, the FFCCCI, will be handling all of these,” Imson added. To ensure transparency, donors are acknowledged through a highly visible signage on the wall outside the classroom.

A total of 207 individuals and Filipino associations abroad as well as in the country have so far answered the government’s appeal for donations to raise money to build classrooms in various public schools previously identified by the Department of Education. The list includes 24 foreign corporate donors – half of which are manning agencies based in the Middle East.

“We received donations from 112 individuals and groups based in North America – that is, US, Canada and US Trust Territories. We also had 22 donors from our Asian neighbors, 20 from the Middle East and 14 from Europe,” Imson said.

A total of P63.5 million had been raised and more pledges are coming in. The amount pooled had been programmed to build a total of 314 classrooms, of which 157 have been turned over to the school-beneficiaries. A total of 149 public elementary and high schools are recipients of at least two new classrooms equipped with two toilets. Assuming that each room will be used by a class with 50 pupils, at least 15,700 public school pupils students are now benefiting from the program.

Based on the data from the Department of Education, a total of 7,385 classrooms are immediately needed – 5,191 for the elementary schools and another 2,194 for the public schools. The total cost is estimated at P3.32 billion.

But the classroom shortage is actually a lot more acute. Assuming that each class of 50 pupils should have a classroom, the country’s public elementary school system needs at least a total of 43,737 classrooms for its 2,186,874 pupils. The actual number of classrooms is only 26,695 or a shortage of 17,042 classrooms.

At the elementary level, the shortage is most acute in Metro Manila, which needs close to 9,000 additional classrooms, followed by Region 4-A or Southern Tagalog (close to 3,000 classrooms) and the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (with a little over 1,000 rooms). These three regions have the highest enrolments at the elementary level.

More is needed for the public high schools where total enrolment now stands at 3,202,757. The country’s public high school system has a total of 41,039 classrooms, while the ideal, at 50 students per class, should be 64,055 classrooms.

All in all, the entire public school system needs over 40,000 more classrooms if it must stick to the standard of having 50 students per class. Given CGMA’s ballpark cost of $4,000 per classroom, at least $160 million – or close to P9 billion – would be needed to meet this shortage.

“The amount definitely sounds staggering and that is why we are encouraging everybody to chip in,” Sto. Tomas said. “The classroom shortage in our public school system is so acute that no contribution could be considered insignificant and any effort to help solve the problem will always be appreciated by the government.”

Imson added that the government is grateful for the assistance extended by the growing number of donors to the program. “We are glad to note that many are willing to help solve the acute classroom shortage not only in critical areas like Real, Infanta and General Nakar but in many other places all over the country. We cannot do this alone, given the current fiscal condition we are currently in,” Imson said.

Among the early CGMA donors are the seamen affiliated with the Associated Marine Officers and Seamen’s Union of the Philippines, which contributed P2 million to build 10 classrooms in Tala High School in Caloocan. Two out of every three classes have no classrooms in Tala. It has 6,199 students and 39 classrooms – or a student-to-classroom ratio of 159. The seamen’s union, which collects the donations from each member when they renew their licenses, has again donated eight classrooms for schools in Quezon Province.

Aside from AMOSUP, the construction of these classrooms are supported by A.Y. Foundation, PIPS/Isabellamina Foundation, Philippine Chinese Association of America (NE), Inc., Filipino American Community of New York-New Jersey, Philippine American Communities Executive Council, Philippine American Community of Northeastern USA and the Filipino American Association of Greater Birmingham

“Education is the surest path to success and progress and I have great respect for the emphasis you are all placing on this issue,” said Leo van Vogel, protector of Isabellamina Foundation, in his letter to Sto. Tomas. Van Vogel’s foundation based in Malaysia is one of CGMA’s biggest donors, having sponsored 25 classrooms. “Your organization is by far the most professional entity with which I have worked since coming to Asia in 1992,” Van Vogel added.

“We are pleased to note that all regions have benefited from the CGMA program. We owe our ability to expand the coverage of CGMA to the continued generosity of our local and foreign donors,” Imson added.

Published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, June 6, 2005, Business Monday, page B3-1

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