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New Australian ambassador visits Davao City

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New Australian Ambassador His Excellency Rod Smith visited this city from 24-26 June 2008 for a series of site visits to Australian Government-funded aid programs and to witness the groundbreaking for the new Mindanao Area Police Intelligence Office in Camp Catitipan.

Ambassador Smith’s visit kicked-off with a courtesy call to Councilor Mabel Sunga-Acosta, Davao City’s acting mayor and Patricia Melizza Ruivivar, Chief of Staff, Office of the Mayor. He was joined by Peter Jensen, Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) Counsellor and Dr. Ian D’Arcy Walsh, Philippine-Australia Basic Education Assistance for Mindanao (BEAM) Australian Project Director.

The acting mayor thanked the Australian Government for its “support and partnership with the city in strengthening the quality of and access to basic education and the various development trainings in Australia for Davaoeños.” As a token of friendship, the ambassador was given a symbolic key to the city.

“I am thankful for the opportunity to visit and for the warm welcome given to me. Having only arrived in the Philippines last March, I am most pleased that the first place I visited outside of Manila is Davao City,” shared the Ambassador.

The first leg of his visit was to the Santa Ana Elementary School and the Institute for Indigenous Peoples Education (IIPE), both of which are supported by AusAID through the BEAM Project.

Department of Education (DepEd) Region XI Director and Philippine Project Manager for BEAM Susana Teresa Estigoy thanked the Australian Government for its on-going support to public basic education. Director Estigoy said that BEAM’s work in particular led to a very significant impact in teaching and learning processes inside the classroom. “It is very encouraging to us that so many of the things we are doing in Region XI are being picked up by DepEd Central Office for national implementation,” she said.

In Santa Ana Central Elementary School, Ambassador Smith observed the implementation of the Arabic Language and Islamic Values Education (ALIVE) classes. ALIVE is a groundbreaking initiative of the BEAM project where the Arabic Language and Muslim education is integrated in public elementary schools with a significant number of Muslim students.

Wearing the traditional Muslim headgears “hijab” and “kupiya,” students answered trivia questions from the ambassador and rendered a song number for the guests. The school officials and community leaders also presented their School Improvement Plan (SIP) and discussed the positive changes in the teachers teaching strategies and community involvement.

“The community participation in Santa Ana Elementary School is very commendable,” Ambassador Smith said. “The real journey to better education is driven by the teachers and the community.”

At the IIPE Center in Mabini Street, the ambassador met with children and tribal leaders from the various indigenous groups in Region XI. He also read a story about Australia to the very enthusiastic IP children.

“The different IP communities that BEAM is assisting have their own unique knowledge, systems and practices. For learning to be fully appreciated and achieve maximum impact, BEAM and DepEd have developed a culturally-relevant and holistic curriculum and learning materials for indigenous children,” he explained.

“The Australian Government looks forward to more fruitful and productive endeavors with its partners and hope that the Australian people’s contribution will go a long way in building a better future for Filipino children.”

Ambassador Smith also graced the Mindanao Commission for Women’s Kamindanawan 2008 opening ceremony at the Waterfront Insular Hotel and ground breaking ceremony for the construction of the new Mindanao Area Police Intelligence Office in Camp Catitipan.

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