The COVID-19 pandemic did not only affect the economy of the country and the health (mental and physical) of many people, it has also left many children struggling with their education given the distance learning that schools are adapting for the meantime. While the education sector of the country has been trying to slowly move forward, with the onslaught of the COVID-19, it has been brought down to its knees once again.1
Even before the pandemic happened, many Filipino children have been missing out the opportunities to learn. According to UNICEF, only half of children ages three to four are enrolled in preparatory schools and only 78% can complete their basic education. Schools also struggle with the lack of proper sanitation (like toilets and clean water), outdated teaching methods, and limited attention to the development of children’s cognitive, socials, and emotional skills – most especially to children belonging to indigenous groups and those with special needs.
Open Library Project in Datag, Alcoy
With the introduction of distance learning – such as modular learning, video lectures, TV broadcasts, and online channels – it now becomes more challenging to provide opportunities for these children to continue learning especially with the limited internet access, procurement of gadgets to be used, and poverty.2 To help solve this problem, couple Anne and Bong Macaraeg, with the help and support of some friends from the religious community and Lions Club Cebu Hamili, put into realization their long-time dream of setting up a space for children’s library that will serve as a study center for the children of Datag, Alcoy.
The couple utilized the parking area of their home and converted it into a conducive place for studying. They were able to gather books, reading materials, and face masks from their friends and generous sponsors. They also have youth volunteers to help assist the children with their studies. Given that some of these children are having difficulty with their Math, two of their engineer friends have volunteered to tutor Mathematics on Saturday afternoons. The couple’s children, niece, and nephews are also taking turns in attending to those who come to their library and prepare biscuits and drinks for them.
In her Facebook post, Anne expressed her gratitude to those people who extended their help and generosity to make this project happen. She mentioned that some of her friends from Cebu City are already asking about future plans of opening other libraries outside Alcoy. They are praying to open more of this learning facility, most especially in the mountain barangays.
At present, the Open Library in Datag, Alcoy is open to receive support in kind and in form of services (preferably no cash). They welcome donations of books, used crayons and pencils, used bond papers, facemasks, tutorial services, tables, and chairs.
This June 13, they will be holding a short story writing contest with the theme ‘Father’s Love’ for children ages 7 to 15. The couple hopes to encourage more children to continue learning even in these trying times.
1 Alexis Deodato Sitoy Itao. The Current State of Education in the Philippines: Traces and Glimmers of Hope amid the Covid-19 Pandemic. DOI:10.13128/cambio-9440
2 Jose Tria. The COVID-19 Pandemic through the Lens of Education in the Philippines: The New Normal. DOI:10.30935/ijpdll/8311