COTABATO CITY, Maguindanao: A regional education official on Thursday said there will be no cancellation of graduation ceremonies in schools in Maguindanao despite escalating military operations in the province.
Bai Taya Aplal, Director II of the Department of Education in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, said graduation rites in conflict-affected schools will be clustered and arranged in a safe location near the schools.
Aplal said schools that are being used as evacuation centers will still hold graduation rites even if it may require the construction of temporary platforms.
She said classes in 63 elementary and secondary schools in Maguindanao have to be suspended due to the joint offensive launched by the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police starting February 25 against elements of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters. This has affected a total of 23,681 students and teachers.
Aplal said the disruption of classes is also an attack on education in the region.
Military operations have already displaced 24,714 families or 123,537 individuals as of Monday. The conflict has now affected 15 towns in the province, prompting the provincial government to declare a state of calamity.
Nine schools are currently serving as evacuation centers, playing host to thousands of displaced families. “For these affected schools, our alternative is to cluster their graduation rites and conduct them in the nearby schools not affected by the armed conflict,” Aplal said.
“We know that the presence of internally displaced persons will affect the graduation rites, thus we are recommending the construction of temporary structure for their graduation ceremonies,” she added.