Children major casualties of war

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DAVAO CITY: The governor of North Cotabato has lamented that the ongoing war in the boundary of Pikit town and Pagalugan in Maguindanao is gravely affecting the education of schoolchildren who were forced to evacuate since early this month.

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In Pikit, North Cotabato, the skirmishes affected the operations of several schools, displacing 2,000 school children. In the affected areas of Pagalungan, at least 1,359 schoolchildren were also reported to have stopped attending their classes as they took shelter in the evacuation center.

The Department of Education in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) said classes were suspended in all public schools in the villages of Kalbugan, Balungis, and Sapakan since February 9.

North Cotabato Gov. Emmylou Mendoza said one of the biggest problems arising from the ongoing feud between the MILF and BIFF in the boundary of Pikit and Pagalungan is the interrupted education of the children from the affected villages.

“In times of war such as this, among the major casualties are the children. I hope the BIFF and MILF will realize that their war is going nowhere as it crashes the future of their children — destroying the children’s education first and then taking away from them a life that they are supposed to enjoy,” Mendoza said.

Mendoza said war makes the future of children “frighteningly bleak.”

To remedy this, Mendoza said the provincial government will implement a program called Education in Emergency, where teachers are obliged to teach students, even in an informal setting, inside the evacuation centers. The stopgap measure is aimed at giving the children their right to education even if armed groups clash with each other.

“There is no doubt that the education of the students has been interrupted yet again, but we do not want to surrender our duty to provide them with education. We cannot allow this war to succeed in destroying the future of these children,” Mendoza said.

The clashes in Pikit and Pagalungan have displaced over 15,000 people from at least 3,000 families. In Noth Cotabato, the affected villages are Kabasalan, Barongis, Buliok, Bago Inged, Bulol and Rajamuda.

The fighting was brought by the rivalry between MILF leader Jack Abbas and BIFF leader Kagi Karialan.

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