MORE than 900 pupils displaced by fighting in Marawi City began classes differently this week in the two Lanao provinces.
The Department of Education (DepEd) in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) has built temporary learning shelters or tents for 941 learners who had fled Marawi.
Ten tent schools opened classes on Tuesday for elementary and secondary students. The tents are within school compounds and designed like classrooms, to allow these schools to accommodate more learners.
There are seven tent schools in the municipality of Saguiaran in Lanao del Sur which is three kilometers away from Marawi City. Lanao del Norte municipalities Pantar built two tent schools, and Balo-i, one.
Nine tent schools cater to 523 elementary pupils, while one in Saguiaran National High School caters to 218 high school enrollees. Two grade levels share one tent school, with two teachers facilitating in each.
The tent schools have feeding programs.
DepEd-ARMM also launched a psychosocial first-aid program, dubbed “Education in Emergency,” where displaced students undergo debriefing to relieve them of the traumatic experiences of war. Around 1,200 students have been debriefed.
“The enemy is defeated here. We saw the solidarity. I am thankful to Region 10 and Iligan City for the support. What the Maute group wants is to destroy us. They didn’t win,” Assistant Secretary Alfhadar Pjiji of DepEd-ARMM said.
School supplies and uniforms were provided to the students with the help of nongovernment organizations such as Save the Children and World Vision.
Marawi City teacher Tanjirea Mascara is supervising three TLS in Saguiaran Central Elementary School. Being an evacuee herself, she decided to volunteer for the “batang Marawi” [Marawi kids].
“Tatakas na sana ako. Pupunta na lang sa Maynila nanduon na rin ang nanay at tatay ko. Pero naisip ko, paano na lang ang mga batang Marawi. Tuloy ang laban. Walang susuko [I was about to escape. I will just go to Manila since my parents are there. But I realized, how about the children of Marawi? We should still fight. Never give up],” Mascara said.
More than their need for school materials, Mascara said Marawi students live their life in fear. “They cannot concentrate. Classes stop when helicopters hover as they are anxious. They can hear the explosions and gunfire,” she said.
Mascara said the TLS teachers and students were advised to be alert as it was possible the Islamic State-linked Maute group might move into their municipality. “Nag-pack na kami ng gamit namin. Para tatakbo na lang kami [We already packed our things so we’ll just run],” she said.
In Manila, the DepEd on Wednesday asked for assistance from the public and private sectors for the students and teachers displaced by the ongoing fighting in Marawi City.
Tonisito Umali, DepEd assistant secretary for legal and legislative affairs, said the education department was ready to accept donations in cash or in kind to help students and teachers in evacuation centers.
“Any help that would be given will definitely be welcomed,” he said in an interview.
Umali said the evacuees’ immediate needs include learners’ kits, teachers’ kits, hygiene and sanitation kits, cleaning materials, chairs and tents, and others.
“Those who want to donate can send their donations directly to the Iligan City National High School, or send it to the DepEd central office in Pasig City and to our regional offices nationwide,” he said.
DepEd data showed that 15,115 students from Marawi City had transferred to other schools in various regions nationwide because of the fighting. Of this number, 7,028 displaced students were in evacuation centers.
“We have already tracked 10,423 out of 22,000 Marawi displaced learners and most of them are in the Iligan City and Lanao del Norte province,” Umali said.
DepEd data however showed that at least 175 of the 1,411 teachers in different schools in Marawi remained unaccounted for.
Umali also asked for donations for the repair and rehabilitation of damaged schools in Marawi City, particularly for materials such as paint, cement, nails, galvanized iron sheets, lumber and hand tools.
DepEd has identified at least seven schools with 137 classrooms damaged by the firefights in the city.
“There are 69 public schools in Marawi City that we need to look after or whether they are damaged in any way, and make sure that they are safe once classes resume in the city,” Umali said.
Among the damaged schools are Raya Madaya Elementary School, Raya Madaya II Primary School, Dansalan Primary School, Mambuay Elementary School, Mamintal Disomangcop Central Elementary School, Banggolo Elementary School and Marawi Central Elementary Pilot School.
The DepEd official said that once fighting ends, the DepEd would re-launch the “Brigada Eskwela” school cleanup drive.
With NEIL A. ALCOBER