MANDAUE CITY, Philippines, Oct. 16, 2000 — Liza Guilbin, a teacher at Cabancalan National High School in Mandaue City, remembers clearly her students’ reactions when they first saw a PC. “At first, they were eager and curious, but they were also quite scared. They were afraid to touch the computers — they didn’t want to destroy them!”
Computers are a relatively rare sight in the Philippines, where unofficial estimates measure PC penetration to be as low as 1.5 PCs for every 100 citizens. And despite the tremendous potential for PCs to enhance classroom leaning, Filipino students have less access to PCs than kids in many other countries.
But for the students that do have access to a PC, the impact is almost immediate. “Now that they know how to use the computers, we can’t keep them away,” Guilbin said. “They’ll jump at the chance just to be able to turn them on!”
For over a year, Guilbin’s students, along with three other classrooms throughout the Philippines, have had access to state-of-the-art computer labs — featuring eight networked PCs, Internet access, a scanner, a digital camera, and a printer — thanks to donations and volunteer work provided by Young Minds in Motion, a Microsoft International Community Affairs program.
Led by Microsoft employee Sam Jacoba, Young Minds in Motion is working to bring PCs and Internet access to the poorest areas of the country. “We want to bring technology to these people and help them discover how it can enhance their lives,” Jacoba said. “We want to create better ways of living and give the underprivileged the opportunity to fulfill their dreams. And, hopefully, we’ll start a cycle of generosity and goodwill, and others will follow suit.”
Guilbin and her students quickly found many uses for their lab. “Our main goal was to give students basic computer skills,” she said. “We encouraged them to make use of the PC to prepare their assignments, as well as use email and the Internet for research. And now they’re using it every chance they get. Some of my students are communicating by email with friends around the world, and the Internet has made research fun. And even on weekends, everyone from students and teachers to parents are still in the lab, tapping away.”
“It also helps us teachers communicate with each other, prepare documents and stay abreast of current events and new teaching resources,” she said.
After only a year, the program is starting to generate concrete results. This year, three of Guilbin’s students placed second in the Philippine Science and Technology Center’s “quiz bee” focusing on basic computer knowledge. Meanwhile, 20 of her former students are now sailing through computer-related courses in college.
“They told me that they didn’t have a hard time with these courses because of the skills they developed in our school. And we couldn’t have done that without Microsoft’s help,” she said.
Young Minds in Motion is part of Microsoft’s International Community Affairs program, which spent $21 million in the past year to fund 95 projects in 60 countries, with the goal of giving PCs and valuable skills to communities where Microsoft employees live and work worldwide.
Following on the success of the initial program, Jacoba plans to roll out five more labs within the next year throughout the country’s poorest regions. The program’s goal, he said, is to have at least one site in every town and city in the Philippines.
“Seeing the joy, awe and wonder on these students’ faces is one of the best moments I will remember in my life at Microsoft,” Jacoba said. “I’ve shared not only our company’s resources, but a part of my own life, to give people the opportunity to live their lives in the information age.”