Students’ literacy project brings home top plum from 2021 ESD Okayama Awards in Japan

A team of UST students with a multi-disciplinary background, won the 2021 Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) Okayama Award for its “Ladders to Literacy” project, which was virtually presented at the ESD Forum on November 20, 2021. The announcement of the winners was made on October 28, 2021 through the Okayama City website.

The team, led by Nursing student Qjiel Mariano, includes Trixie Ann Bautista and Janis Andriella Santiago from the Faculty of Arts and Letters; Alexa Taay, Jessica Dimaandal, Floriano Tolentino II from the College of Nursing; Bianca Adia and Jerald Trambulo from the College of Education; Ambriel Pascual from the College of Commerce and Business Administration, and Jasmine Grande from the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery.

Ladders to Literacy is an ongoing project that began in July 2019. In its current form during the pandemic, it enables storytelling sessions that teach children the need for physical distancing and the use of masks. Through the published storybooks, parents and children can also learn the sustainable development goals (SDGs) in their own homes.

The project promotes participatory solution making with the children and the communities involved through producing storybooks created by children. By making them active and learning participants instead of just beneficiaries, the children are empowered during the creative process and simultaneously improve their writing abilities and literacy development. The stories also contain their understanding of the SDGs, which will ripple out awareness within their community.

The initiative uses a multi-disciplinary approach, with efforts from the different colleges of UST and volunteers from different universities. Volunteers from different colleges are assigned to translate the book into other Philippine languages, illustrate the storybook, and convert the story text into braille for the visually impaired.

In the case of its partner community located at the Manila North Cemetery (MNC), a storybook called “Literate Lila” that recounts the stories of children cleaning their environment in the MNC, was produced.

According to Mariano, “We think this will inspire UST students to join charity and advocacy initiatives on the global goals for sustainable development.”

The literacy training and storybook production are some of the ways that Mariano and his friends support the Ang Galing program of All Together in Dignity (ATD) Fourth World Philippines, an international movement dedicated to eradicating extreme poverty all over the world.

Mariano also acknowledged the Thomasians who assisted them during the application for the award: Assoc. Prof. Jocelyn Mariano, M.D. from the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery; Jeremiah Dimasacat, Anne Dominic Novales, Ivan Luis Martinez, Stephen Marfel Marasigan from the College of Nursing; and UST alumni Biyaya Monique Macaraig, Margarita Anne Tipton, Anne Dre’a Camus, Aleanna Antoinette Tengco who are graduates of the SHS, Aaliyah Heart Duran, and Daphne Von Basuel from the JHS.

With 118 applications from 48 countries, a ‘first selection’ handpicked 10 award candidates in September 2021. The final two awardees were later decided by a steering board composed of the United Nations University Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability (UNU-IAS), UNESCO Bangkok, Asia and Pacific Regional Bureau for Education, Asia-Pacific Cultural Centre for UNESCO (ACCU), Japan Council on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD-J), The Goi Peace Foundation, and the Okayama ESD Promotion Commission in Okayama, Japan.

Ladders to Literacy’s winning counterpart is the “Wise Wayz Water Care Project” by the Partners for People and Planet (Triple-P) from the Republic of South Africa.

The ESD Okayama Awards annually search for the best Education for Sustainable Development practices in the world since 2015. Winners of the award are given a $3,000 or 300,000 yen cash prize to support their advocacy.

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