Students in Marawi struggle to regain access to education as the new school year started amid battles between government troops and the Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups, educators who recently visited evacuation centers in Mindanao said.
“The students harbor deep resentment because their return to their schools for the new school year has been hampered,” All UP Workers’ Union’s Felix Pariñas said.
Pariñas, who participated in the National Interfaith Humanitarian Mission to Marawi and Iligan cities last June 13 to 16 was among the panellists in the Books Not Bullets: A Press Forum on the National Humanitarian Interfaith Mission & Needs Assessment by the University of the Philippines-Diliman Delegation held last June 20.
ACT Teachers Party Rep. France Castro, another mission participant, for her part said more than 20,000 students in the affected areas remain unaccounted for by the Department of Education (DepEd) and the Commission on Higher Education.
She added that 1,424 teachers are still trapped in Marawi itself, 700 of whom are unaccounted for or have yet to report their status to the DepEd, Castro reported.
The DepEd has reportedly mobilized the Learning Continuity Program that aims to transfer internally-displaced students to schools near Marawi.
But Pariñas said DepEd’s program still has little or no effect as students in various evacuation centers are unsure about their chances of resuming schooling.
UP System Information Office’s Jo Lontoc, also a mission delegate to Iligan and Marawi, said there have yet to be arrangements by the DepEd, the schools and the local government units on the affected students’ situation.
“The fighting broke out during the enrolment period. They really don’t know if they can still go back to school in the near future,” Lontoc said.
The students also expressed hopes for an end the aerial bombings in Marawi, the delegates said.
“They demand an end to the aerial bombing, hoping they would still have schools to go back to when the fighting stops,” Pariñas said.
“Tattered, ragged,” Pariñas described an elementary school the mission visited.
Lontoc added that many students staying in Marawi dormitories were also forced to evacuate and have yet to reunite with their families.
“They are also evacuees who are separated from their families,” Lontoc said.
Pariñas added that students fear for their safety after President Rodrigo Duterte’s statement he would condone rape by soldiers as Mindanao is under martial law anyway.
“They dread the consequences of the President’s statement,” Pariñas said.
The mission delegates said that while DepEd organized relief efforts to aid students with school bags and school uniforms, these are bogged down by inefficient distribution as well as safety concerns and martial law restrictions.
“Multiple checkpoints worsen already existing issues such as traffic, even outside Marawi. This limits the inflow of volunteers such as the UP delegates from carrying out their mission,” the delegates said.
Castro said the Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives intends to file a house resolution for an investigation into the validity of martial law imposition and the possible humanitarian abuses in Mindanao when regular Congress sessions resume on June 24. # (Eunice Lei Wu of UP-CMC for Kodao Productions / Featured image courtesy of Gabby Endona and Gabe Sante of UP-CMC )