GOVERNOR Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu of Maguindanao province signed a total of 4,254 contracts of Maguindanao Program on Educational Assistance and Community Development (MagPEACE) scholars on Monday in Buluan town of Maguindanao, binding students to pursue studies and earn professions that would enable them to pay back the provincial government to decrease illiteracy in the province.
Screening officials said there are 377 applicants-students added from 3,877 already secured by Mangudadatu, sponsor of the decade-old Mindanao’s record-setting program, after being overwhelmed by poor parents begged in tears.
“They cried for their kids and their tears swayed the governor,” Lynette Estandarte, provincial budget officer and special projects coordinator, told event covering journalists in Pilipino.
The 7,000 students with their parents and visitors overflowed the capacity of Buluan gymnasium.
The crowd burst in resounding applause and sighs of joy after Gov. Mangudadatu announced said “We accommodated other deserving students, so we now have 4,254 scholars.”
Manawara Kelim, a first year student from Mindanao State University—Maguindanao said in Pilipino with tears of joy “I am glad that our governor is caring and loving us, inspiring us to pursue our study without worrying from our financial aspects.”
“We are poor, only my old brother is sustaining us, but I want him to leave me out of his responsibility, and I am thankful to our governor for realizing this,” she added without hesitation.
Nasruddin Gunting, a third year student from Cotabato City State Polytechnic said in Pilipino “we are thanking our governor for giving us opportunity to meet our dreams, it has been 3 years and only 1 year more for me to repay our governor’s kindness.”
“Since I am future educator, I will tell my students in the future that I finished my study because of our governor initiative,” he added.
The same event, the governor signed another memorandum of agreement with administrators of 18 public and private schools in Maguindanao and elsewhere in the country under the MagPEACE, which his administration is subsidizing P24 million annually from the provincial internal revenue allotment (IRA).
Provincial Board member Abubakar Katambak said the Sangguniang Panlalawigan is likely to pass this month pass a resolution authorizing the office of the governor’s standing application for P1.2-billion Omnibus Loan the Land Bank of the Philippines. Bank officials are waiting for the resolution, he added.
At a sidelight press conference, Gov. Mangudadatu told to reporters that P300-million from the loan will institutionalize the scholarship program to ensure its sustenance when other elected leaders take over the provincial reign.
Mangudadatu said he started the scholarship program with only 250 scholars when he was mayor of this town over a decade ago.
“All of the pioneer scholars are now professionals. Most of them are now teachers helping to solve the disturbing illiteracy rate (country’s highest) in Maguindanao,” he recalled.
Under the expanded MagPEACE modalities, scholarships are granted even to post-graduate students enrolled in science and technology and law studies in renowned universities in Metro Manila, Davao City and Palawan.
But unlike the original scheme, current scholars are required to pay back the provincial government in staggered basis when they finished their studies and gained employment.
In tribute, the scholars took turns in performing cultural and modern dance and song rendering numbers after the MoA signing rite.
A group of freshmen scholars rendered a drama portraying their tragedy in stopping school studies after they lost their parents in atrocities and nature deaths caused by lack of medical attentions.
Journalists saw the 45-year old governor breaking in tears while watching the dramatic presentation, which portrayed also many local out-of-schools youths joining the Moro rebel fronts for lack of money to study. Moh I. Saaduddin