Save the Children Philippines calls for stronger support for learners trapped in conflict, violence, and poverty, especially in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).
On International Day of Education with the theme, “Learning for Lasting Peace,” Save the Children reiterates that all children, regardless of where they come from, must have the right to learn.
Poverty, early and forced marriage, and the lack of peace and order are affecting learners’ retention and dropout rates in Sulu, according to the recent report by the Ministry of Basic, Higher, and Technical Education (MBHTE) Monitoring and Evaluation Team.
“Most parents here cannot afford to pay for school. Many of my students drop out or miss classes because they are forced to work and help their parents to 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 marriage or forced marriage are also prevalent in the region. Based on Save the Children’s recent consultation with parents and teachers, many young girls result to marriage as the only solution to alleviate their financial situation. The lack of peace and order like rido or family feuds and armed conflict in the region also displace many children and youth, heavily affecting their retention in school.
“Because of all of these, many students are discouraged to go to school and look for means to earn instead. They’d rather not study,” said Abdurajan.
Save the Children Philippines recently conducted Return to Learning sessions and provided semi-permanent learning facilities to its partner schools in Sulu, boosting the retention rate of learners to 100%.
“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 focus on improving learners’ reading and numerical skills and socio-emotional learning.
Back-to-school kits composed of new backpacks and contextualized learning materials including raincoats were also provided to the learners.
“My mother and father will be so happy. They don’t have to worry about buying school supplies for me and my sisters,” said Isa* (not her real name), one of the recipients of the back-to-school kits. She expressed how excited she was to use it in her class.
“As a teacher, I am very happy for our students here in our school. They deserve this kind of support,” said Abdurajan. She further shared that the Return to Learning sessions and back to school kits helped both the financially struggling parents through in-kind provision and their underserved children to return and stay in school.
Save the Children Philippines, together with its partners, continues to support learners in BARMM who experience extreme poverty and displacements due to conflict.
“They need all the help they can to overcome these challenges. Education is the most powerful way for children to be truly empowered and to achieve sustainable peace,” said Save the Children Philippines BARMM Office Head Mykiel Patcho.
“We would do the world a great disservice if we do not set the stage now to empower our children by creating more opportunities for education. It is our responsibility to prepare the next generation for the challenges of the future,” said Patcho.
The Return to Learning sessions had a profound impact to over 8,000 girls and boys from communities affected by conflict in the provinces of Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu and Basilan. This is part of the Project SiNDAO 2, funded by the EU Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid, which aims to protect learning in conflict and complex emergencies in Mindanao.