|Posted on December 3, 2018 at 9:05 PM|
Courtesy of Roderick Abad— Business Mirror Online News
“We’re trying to go back to normalcy,” Department of Education-Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (DepEd-ARMM) Assistant Division Superintendent Ana Zenaida U. Alonto told the BusinessMirror on a sideline interview during the launch of the Marawi Storybook Series held recently at the Ramon Magsaysay Center in Manila.
Following the siege that broke in May 2017 displacing thousands of people, 42 out of 69 public elementary and high schools in the war-torn city resumed classes on June 4 this year.
“But 20 [of them] were damaged in ground zero,” she said of the state-run learning institutions located within the most affected areas (MAAs) in Marawi.
Apart from the 40 regular primary and two secondary schools, four other interim schools were built that now accommodate returning students.
Before the strife led by the militant Maute brothers broke, Marawi had more than 22,000 public elementary and high-school students, based on records of the DepEd-ARMM. Its latest actual headcount revealed 17,107 returned to school.
Alonto said the rest of the 5,000 schoolers, whether enrolled or not, are believed to have moved to different areas where they sought refuge.
Asked about the present situation of the educational system in Marawi, she said everything has been put in place given that more than half of the schools are now operational following the stoppage of classes for one school year because of war.
“All our children are okay,” she said, adding some of the students exhibited some change in behavior like being hyperactive or fearful due to their horrible and traumatic ordeals. “Those are manifestations, I think, of what they experienced during the siege. But we are trying to contain them.”
Alonto said they continue with the psychosocial first aid given to the learners months before by the continuity of artworks given as one school activity.
She added the constant supply of hygiene kits and the conduct of school feeding programs by partner-donors and the government’s education arm has helped in their goal of normalcy.
The latter initiative serves as an intervention to encourage students to study again and, at the same time, relieve parents from the stress of sending them to schools given their current situation. Assistance from both the public and private sectors, structure-wise, also poured in to provide the students with conducive learning environments.
“In fact, a foundation has just turned over to us four classrooms with two toilets each,” Alonto said. “What we need now for our students are some uniforms, school kits, hygiene kits and to continue our feeding program to let them stay in school.”
The top education officer also called for help to all of the city’s 1,100 educators who, despite being the hardest hit by the war, are all safe and have returned to teaching.
“I think what they need now are finances, uniforms and soft interventions,” the assistant superintendent said. Capacitating the educators with the latter initiative, she noted, will further enhance the learning process of students.
Looking at their situation in the long term, Alonto expressed optimism on the government’s effort to rebuild Marawi, with President Duterte leading the groundbreaking ceremonies for the debris management of the MAAs late October.
“That’s a signal of a new beginning for Marawi,” she said. “So we are also expecting the reconstruction and rehabilitation of ground zero, where the 20 damaged schools are located, will be finished on time. Our government promised to bring back the normalcy in Marawi by 2022.”
The Marawi siege, she appealed to the public, should not be forgotten as part of the country’s history.
“God forbids, but this can happen also to others. It may be unwanted, but we learned a lot from this war. We want to share to all Filipinos that it was also the time when we saw how the Christians and Muslims helped one another,” she said in reference to the four storybooks that highlight the culture, identity, values and resilience of Maranaos.
These are The Day the Typhoon Came written by Carla Pacis; Water Lilies for Marawi, by Heidi Emily Eusebio-Abad; Marawi Land of the Brave, by Melissa Salva; and Lost and Found: A Song of Marawi, by Randy Bustamante.
Launched by the Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP), together with The Bookmark Inc., during the event called “iRead4Peace” in celebration of the National Reading Month, these series of reading materials catered to children were based on actual experiences of survivors of the Marawi conflict.
“PBSP partnered with us for the storybooks because they wanted to help the children of Marawi, not only to cope but to adjust to their new lives after the siege,” explained Anna Maria Tan-Delfin, GM of The Bookmark.
“This book will serve as a link between our Christian brothers and us in Marawi for the readers to feel and understand what we have gone through during the war. It’s not easy to be coming back [or] rising back again [from what we experienced]. It will take maybe two decades for us to really go back to normalcy,” Alonto noted.
Written in both English and Maranao and brought to life by professional illustrators, the storybooks will be given to every child in Marawi and will also be donated to the DepEd-Marawi to improve the reading skills of children and serve as a tool for peace education and trauma healing.
“Through these storybooks, we hope to not only build a culture of reading, but also help these young survivors rebuild their lives. Moreover, we aim to use these books to shape the continuing dialogue on peace and development in Mindanao,” said Reynaldo Antonio Laguda, executive director of PBSP.
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