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US extends education assistance to Leyte schools

PALO, Leyte, Philippines - – As part of the US government’s continuing relief efforts in the Visayas region following super typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), key officials of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) distributed post-disaster educational kits to over 100 schools in Leyte.

During last Thursday’s ceremonial hand over in Pawing Elementary School in Palo, Leyte, the USAID through its flagship basic education project, Basa Pilipinas handed over backpacks containing back-to-school kits for 17,250 students, 775 teaching and learning kits and trainings for 750 teachers on psychological support services.

US embassy officials led by USAID/Philippines Deputy Mission Director Reed Aeschlimann handed over the educational assistance to students and teachers affected by the typhoon Yolanda. 

They were assisted by DepEd-8 Director Dr. Luisa Yu, Leyte division superintendent Dr. Ronelo Al Firmo, Ormoc City division superintendent Dr. Mariza Magan and principals of the recipient schools.

Earlier, the Department of Education reported that around 1,853 schools in four Visayas regions (4B, 6, 7 and 8) were damaged and more than half of which (1,023) were schools in Leyte and Samar provinces when super typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) made landfall in the Visayas region last Nov. 8.

The strongest typhoon that brought strong winds, heavy rains and tsunami-like waves that flattened government offices, houses, churches, business establishments and schools affected over 1.3 million students and 41,000 teachers in the Visayas.

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“I have seen your most profound trait – your unbreakable spirit, I was truly inspired by your courage and optimism in the midst of this devastation,” Aeschlimann told students and teachers of Pawing Elementary School (PES) in Palo Leyte and Ormoc SPED Center School, two of 100 schools in Leyte province that have availed the education kits.

 About 80% of the students were already back to school despite damaged classrooms and facilities. 

Educational kits will also be given to three other regions in the Visayas, particularly in Northern Cebu, which were also affected by the destructive typhoon.

 “This assistance is part of the nearly $88 million (P3.7 billion) support provided by the American people to help you recover from this catastrophe,” Aeschlimann said.

Basa Pilipinas (Read Philippines) is a four-year project aimed to improve reading outcomes for one million early grade students. Basa Pilipinas commenced in January 2013 and through close collaboration with DepEd, has trained over 5,000 school personnel, and will be delivering over 500,000 classroom reading materials in Samar, Leyte, La Union, Cebu, Ilocos Norte and Sur, Bohol and Maguindanao.

Aeschlimann is optimistic that by coming back to school, these children, teachers and parents may regain hope for a better tomorrow, hinting that education also mitigate the effects of catastrophes in the future by inculcating disaster preparedness in children and parents alike.

 “I am confident that your incredible resiliency will help you in rebuilding your lives,” he said.

 Saying that the United States and the Philippines are “best friends” or “BFF,” the official reaffirmed their continued support and commitment to help restore normalcy in the lives of affected families especially the children as they vowed to work toward shared goal of accelerating broad-based and inclusive growth.

 For his one-day visit in Leyte, Aeschlimann and other US embassy officials were toured by school officials around Tacloban City and to the sites of the proposed rehabilitation of 34 schools in Palo, Leyte and Rural Health Unit in Dagami, Leyte.

In his flight back home, his team from USAID brought with them a lot of Philippine flags scribbled with “thank you” messages and sweet memories from the school pupils and teachers who were all smiles when they left for Manila.

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