Foundation in funding trouble

FUNDRAISING: The Humanistic Education Foundation held an auction of works given by leading political figures to help make up a shortfall of NT$10 million in its funding

By Jewel Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Sun, Oct 19, 2003 - Page 2

The Humanistic Education Foundation, unable to pay its employees for the past two months, yesterday held an auction of works donated by leading political figures to help alleviate its dire financial situation.

As the most prominent educational group advocating the idea of human-centered education in Taiwan, the foundation obtained many important figures' support in yesterday's auction.

Despite their absence, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) and Taipei Mayor Ying-jeou (馬英九) offered items from their art collections for the auction.

"We are facing the biggest financial crisis of the past 14 years," said foundation chairwoman Chu Tai-hsiang (朱台翔).

"It's a life-or-death situation for the foundation," Chu said. "If we do not get enough money as soon as possible, many educational projects will be forced to end."

For example, Chu said, the academic remedial project for junior school students coming from poor families in Sanchung, Taipei County, which started in August, will be forced to close if funds are not forthcoming.

"We do hope that those children who cannot afford to go to cram schools will have the chance to catch up with their classmates in academic performance," Chu said, adding that her foundation is dedicated to giving everyone and equal chance in education.

The foundation also plays the role of watchdog, identifying problems in the country's education system, advocating alternative educational ideas and helping create a social and political forum to discuss the purpose and means of education.

Its strong objection to corporal punishment for schoolchildren has been particularly popular in society.

At the fundraising luncheon, Chu said that the foundation's annual expenses reached nearly NT$100 million last year, including personnel expenses and the costs of educational projects across the country.

Donations, proceeds from the sale of the Humanistic Education Journal published by the foundation, government subsidies and revenue from educational activities still leave the foundation short of about NT$10 million. Chu said they aimed to raise money by auctioning the artistic works provided by people who are concerned about Taiwan's education and by the sales of luncheon coupons.

Shih Ying (史英), who founded the foundation, said the employees had not complained about their delayed salaries.

"Some of them often work until 11pm without asking for overtime pay because they are truly passionate about education," Shih said.

The paper sculpture that Chen offered with an asking price of NT$10,000 was sold for NT$125,000, and the collage that Lu donated was sold for NT$80,000. The foundation raised another NT$9.2 million from a sale later in the day.

Academia Sinica President Lee Yuan-Tseh (李遠哲) who is in Bangkok for an APEC, expressed his support for the foundation in a video tape played at yesterday's event.

"The Humanistic Education Foundation has been putting a lot of effort into educating society that everyone has his or her own value even if he or she does not perform well in school," Lee said. "And this is the concept that educational reform wants to carry out."