Runners take part in a fun run to raise money to rebuild schools (Photo courtesy of Athletes in Action)
As the world watches with fervid interest the summer Olympic Games in London, a group of local athletes and celebrities have been pursuing a different kind of gold. About 2,000 people took part in a “fun run” organized by Athletes in Action last month, to raise funds to rebuild schools following a typhoon that struck the country in December. More than 1,200 people died and millions of dollars worth of property was destroyed by it. “There has always been a lack of classrooms all over the country, and this situation worsened after Typhoon Sendong,” said Jose Andes, national director of Athletes in Action. “A classroom is the best place to nurture our future leaders, the next generation of God-loving and nationalist Filipinos,” he added. Former Olympic track and field athlete Elma Muros-Posadas participated in the event, which was entitled Schools Run For School Rooms, in Bonifacio Global City in Taguig. Posadas said she was glad that running was being used to help improve the lives of Filipino children. “Sports and education are on the same page in doing a lot to develop a person,” she said. Actors and other celebrities also participated. “I’ve always supported education causes," said Tim Yap, a TV host and basketball star. "We need to give whatever little way we can to make each Filipino child go to school." Participants ran in three events – a 3k, 5k and 10k race – for which they paid entry fees of between 350 Philippine pesos (US$8.38) and 550 Philippine pesos. Athletes in Action said the event raised about 300,000 pesos, or US$7,000 – enough to build one classroom – which will be used in Iligan, the area worst affected by the typhoon. Other groups have also sought to improve the quality and availability of education. The Adopt-A-School program has sought donations from private organizations, businesses and individuals to help upgrade public elementary and high schools. Between 2003 and this year, the program has received 18 billion pesos for education departments nationwide. “Education is a very important tool in eradicating poverty and in molding the future of Filipino children. It is too big a task to leave to the government alone,” said Merle Asprer, operations manager for the Adopt-A-School program. Meanwhile, the increasing number of students in the country is also adding pressure on the existing educational infrastructure. Data from the Department of Education shows that the country needs thousands more classrooms to achieve the 1 to 45 ratio of classrooms to students. The shortage has become even more chronic after the implementation this year of the new Kindergarten Plus 12 program, which makes kindergarten mandatory and adds two years to secondary education.