Save the Children Philippines urges stronger support for learners amid conflict, violence, and poverty, especially in Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).
On the International Day of Education “Learning for Lasting Peace,” Save the Children underlines that all children, regardless of background, have the right to learn.
Poverty, early and forced marriage, and the peace and order situation in Sulu affect student retention and dropout rates. BARMM’s MBHTE Monitoring and Evaluation Team reported.
“Most parents here cannot afford the cost of sending their children to school. Many of my students drop out or miss classes because they are forced to help their parents make ends meet,” said Nur-in Abdurajan, a teacher in one of Save the Children Philippines’ partner schools in Sulu.
Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) revealed that as of September 2023, the BARMM Region had the biggest number of children unenrolled in school due to the high cost of education at 23.2%.
“They can’t even afford to buy their own pens,” said Abdurajan.
Early or forced marriage is also common. According to Save the Children’s recent consultation with parents and teachers, many young girls marry to alleviate their financial situation. Many children and youth were uprooted by family feuds (called “rido”) and armed conflict in the region, which affected their school attendance.
“Because of all of these, many students are discouraged to go to school and instead look for means to earn instead. They’d rather not study,” said Abdurajan.
Save the Children Philippines‘ Project SiNDAO 2, Protecting Learning in Conflict and Complex Emergencies in Mindanao, supports Sulu partner schools with return-to-learning sessions and semi-permanent learning facilities to help affected learners. These learners are now 100% retained.
To date, over 8,000 conflict-affected children and boys in Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu, and Basilan were greatly impacted by the EU Humanitarian Aid-funded project.
“The Return to Learning Module is really helpful to motivate children to learn in a fun environment,” said Abdurajan. Learners are able to catch up with their lessons because the sessions focused on improving learners’ reading and numerical skills and socio-emotional learning. Also, the learners received back-to-school kits with new backpacks, raincoats, and contextualized learning materials.
“My parents will be happy,” Isa (not her real name), one of the back-to-school kit recipients said. Isa added that she and her sister do not need to buy school supplies. She was thrilled to use it in class.
“They need all the help they can to overcome these problems,” stated Save the Children Philippines BARMM Office Head Mykiel Patcho. He stressed that education empowers children and promotes peace in the region.