Gen­er­a­tion HOPE–Vita Coco: Build­ing schools one class­room at a time

The Philippine Star - - BUSINESS -

Vita Coco, one of the world’s lead­ing co­conut wa­ter brands, and Hope, the group be­hind the “Hope In A Bot­tle” brand fin­ished build­ing six new class­rooms in a poor dis­trict in Gen­eral San­tos City, Min­danao, pro­vid­ing a mod­ern school for hun­dreds of youths who oth­er­wise would not have had a shot at a proper ed­u­ca­tion.

The class­rooms built by HOPE and Vita Coco, un­der the ed­u­ca­tion de­part­ment’s “Adopt A School” pro­gram, are now be­ing used by 508 stu­dents in Grades 7 to 9.The orig­i­nal plan was to build just two class­rooms, but upon see­ing the scale of the prob­lem they quickly de­cided to build four more.

“Vita Coco wouldn’t ex­ist with­out the sup­port of co­conut farm­ers and their fam­i­lies, we are proud to part­ner with HOPE in cre­at­ing a mean­ing­ful im­pact on the com­mu­ni­ties we source from”, said Vita Coco’s Global brand man­ager, Pa­trick Baskin.

The new class­rooms sit on a prop­erty in La­gao dis­trict, one of Gen­eral San­tos City’s poor­est. La­gao only has one pub­lic school, built two years ago: the Gen­eral San­tos City Na­tional Sec­ondary School for the Arts and Trade (GSCNSSAT). The school cur­rently has over 3,000 stu­dents packed in 41 class­rooms and most of the stu­dents are chil­dren of farm hands and con­struc­tion work­ers. Be­fore HOPE and Vita Coco stepped in, classes were in­structed be­neath trees or in a shed. The six new class­rooms cur­rently serve as an ex­ten­sion unit of the main school.

Bien­venido Ruedas, the school’s prin­ci­pal, said the new class­rooms will even­tu­ally be spun off into a new school, the La­gao Com­pre­hen­sive Na­tional High School. “GSCNSSAT is pri­mar­ily a tech­ni­cal-vo­ca­tional school. The new school will ac­com­mo­date stu­dents who are not tech­ni­cally in­clined,” he said. Ruedas said La­gao would need at least four more class­rooms to reach the ideal ra­tio of 45 to 60 stu­dents per class­room.

Ruedas also said there has been a bump in the num­ber of en­rollees since the class­rooms were built. “We’ve had to turn away many late en­rollees this year,” he said, adding that the sit­u­a­tion is un­likely to im­prove, as stu­dents nowin Grade 9 move on to Grade 10.

“We ex­pect nearly 200 more stu­dents next year, and 200 more ev­ery year as stu­dents progress to Grades 11 and 12,” he said. “We are very grate­ful we have groups like Hope and Vita Coco who are help­ing us aug­ment our re­sources, as hon­estly the gov­ern­ment does not have enough to build class­rooms fast enough for youths com­ing to the pub­lic school sys­tem each year,” said Ruedas. He said the Hope-Vita Coco school project has be­come a model of pri­vate-pub­lic sec­tor part­ner­ship to­wards ad­dress­ing the na­tion’s press­ing prob­lems.

“Through our part­ner­ship with HOPE, we are com­mit­ted to help­ing co­conut farm­ers im­prove their yields and prac­tices to make more money and in­vest in their com­mu­ni­ties to build schools and pro­vide schol­ar­ships so their chil­dren can get a strong ed­u­ca­tion,” said Baskin.

Stu­dents go­ing to the new class­rooms are now wear­ing uni­forms in Hope’s blue and white hues as a show of grat­i­tude for ev­ery­thing that Hope has done. Built at around P500,000 per unit, each class­room is 63 square me­ters wide and 4 me­ters high, each with its own toi­let.

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