PILA, Laguna: A pilot site for the school and home gardens (SHG) program of the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) has won an international award for its exemplary achievements in education and sustainable development (ESD).
The Labuin Elementary School (LES) in this third class municipality got the "2017 SEAMEO [Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization]-Japan ESD" award for improving the health and nutrition of its students.
The award is conferred by the SEAMEO-Japan Ministry of Education, Culture, Science and Technology (MEXT) in cooperation with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Asia Pacific Regional Bureau of Education.
SEARCA Director Gil Saguiguit Jr. said this year's award with the theme "Improving Health and Nutrition" recognizes schools in Southeast Asia in their efforts to implement programs "to improve health and nutrition of students that also transform schools into a healthy learning environment."
The SEARCA-led SHG program in the country is implemented together with the Department of Education (DepEd)-Laguna Division and the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB).
"The program is innovated on the old concept of school gardens to focus on three interrelated areas of intervention in learning by doing food production activities [education], improved food diversity and availability [nutrition], and savings on food costs and added income [economics]," Saguiguit said.
He said SEARCA realized that applying this twist to an old concept is one way to heighten appreciation for agriculture among the youth and attract new blood to the study of agriculture, and create a new generation of professionals in this field.
LES is one of SEARCA's six pilot schools that was earlier cited as the "most successful" implementation of the SHG program and was also recognized as the best in community extension and forging partnerships with local government units.
"[It] has contributed significantly to the diversity and availability of food in the school and local community, and enhanced the knowledge and skills of students, their parents and teachers on sustainable food production and nutrition," Saguiguit said.
Among the pilot schools, LES made the most headway in the three areas of intervention in education, nutrition and economics, and established important linkages at the local level to help sustain the program gains.
Saguiguit said these feats have merited LES to receive the award, which promotes and shares "initiatives and good practices that support sustainable development through the improvement of health and nutrition in school plans, teaching and learning practices, and daily routines of students."
The first and second prizes went to an elementary school in Malaysia and Myanmar, respectively. The awards will be presented to the three schools at the opening ceremony of the 40th High Officials Meeting of SEAMEO in Bangkok, Thailand on November 29. Alma Tomacruz, LES principal, will accept the award on behalf of the school.