Learning opportunities do not come easy in the remote towns of Lanao del sur and other provinces in Mindanao but the European Union’s ReACh 2 TEACH project ensured that the most impacted children in these conflict-affected areas are given the equal learning opportunities and holistic care and protection they deserve despite lack of resources and threats caused by COVID-19.
Those who are lucky enough to go to school are confronted with concerns on lack of educational materials, capacity building for teachers, protection issues in localities, and even access to clean water and hygiene facilities which also puts them at risk to life-threatening diseases.
“As much as we wanted to improve the quality of our education in our school, we lacked resources to take care of the welfare of our students in our madrasah (Islamic learning center),” said ustadz Tarahta Macapandi, a madrasah teacher in Tubaran Lanao del Sur, adding that they cannot provide even a simple toilet accessible for their learners.
Macapandi expressed that many children in madrasah schools in their communities are living in poverty. "Despite their willingness to learn, poverty, our lack of resources, and the negatives effects of the pandemic hinder the continuity of their education," she said.
The ReACh 2 TEACH project, funded by the European Union Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid in partnership with Save the Children Philippines and Care Philippines, has helped ease the difficulties experienced by many formal and informal schools in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, Caraga, and Northern Mindanao regions through interventions hinged on education-in-emergencies, child protection, and WaSH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene).
The interventions under the project directly reached 482,753 individuals, 47,058 of which are children.
“The ReACh 2 TEACH project was critical in providing life-saving and life-sustaining interventions amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. It highlighted the importance and need for continued learning and protection especially for children who have been equally and most affected by the situation,” said Save the Children Philippines BARMM Team Leader Edwin Horca.
12,575 learners across 96 formal and non-formal schools covered by the project have improved their education-in-emergencies capacity, which directly supports quality learning environment components. These include emotional and psychosocial learning, physical protection, teaching and learning, parents and community, and school management.
“The project is a blessing to us. As a student in madrasah, I learned to further appreciate my education. The simple toilet, new chairs, and hygiene kits you gave us made us feel important.,” expressed Sultan, a 14-year learner from a madrasah in Tubaran, Lanao del Sur.
For child protection, 1,498 children and 233 adults were capacitated through various duty-bearer trainings on case management addressing psychosocial well-being needs of learners affected by conflict and the pandemic.
“One with the global and especially the European community, we create inclusive access to quality education and ensure that the underserved girls and boys, even in the remotest parts of Mindanao, can continue to learn in safe and positive environments amid the ongoing conflict and pandemic," Horca concluded.