Six years since the Marawi siege, children are still bearing the brunt of its impact and many of them remain forgotten.
Ibrahim*, 15, is one of the 20,000 children affected by the siege. He moved to Metro Manila to escape the fear engulfed by the crossfire. “My life in Manila was very hard. My parents got separated and didn’t have jobs so I had to skip school to help them and tend to my four siblings,” he shared.
Ibrahim would sell pater (a Maranao delicacy) in the cramped streets of Manila.,” he narrated. Those little hands that were meant to play and study were replaced by the necessity to work, stealing his basic rights at a very young age.
After three years, Ibrahim had to go back to Marawi city to live with his distant relative since his parents could no longer support him.
With the support of his uncle, an uztad (teacher), he was lodged and enrolled in a toril. A toril is an Islamic non-formal learning institution accepting stay- in learners. Children in torils are mostly orphans. Others are survivors of the Marawi siege.
“In our madrasah, we accept children, mostly orphans, who are not capable of enrolling to formal schools. Their parents can’t even afford school supplies and uniforms for their children,” said Salahudin Amano, an uztad.
For Ibrahim, no obstacle is bigger than his dreams and his will to succeed. “I want to study in madrasah (toril) to learn and memorize the Qur’an. After that, I want to also work as an uztad to teach and earn for my family,” he said.
However, the madrasah is struggling to support over a hundred children in terms of food and other necessities. Hygiene and comfort of the learners are also compromised due to their low-quality facilities and accommodation.
“We can’t provide even their basic educational needs, as simple as blackboards and notebooks for the learners.” shared Amano.
For the past four years, Save the Children Philippines had been providing emergency and recovery assistance to children and their families affected by the Marawi siege, reaching over 80,000 children all over the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Mindanao (BARMM). These include learning materials, psychosocial first aid, and temporary learning spaces to ensure children will continue learning during the crisis.
“I can’t even remember the last time someone visited or provided support in our school,” recalled Amano. “That is why I am very happy that organizations are starting to hear our stories of struggles to help us in our school,” he added.
In partnership with Ria Money Transfer under the Quality and Protective Education for Children initiative, over a hundred children were reached in 2022, particularly those from non-formal Islamic institution in identified areas in Marawi and Lanao del Sur. 110 back-to-school kits including bags, notebooks, pencils, sharpeners, raincoats, study tables and prayer mats were distributed to the support struggling learners.
A semi-permanent temporary learning space was also provided to ensure that learners will have the best educational experience that is encouraging and safe. Toilet facilities were also repaired to accommodate the learners’ hygiene needs.
To assist the teachers in providing protective, quality and child-centered education to children in madrasah, they were trained on child protection, disaster risk management and teaching pedagogy.
“One day I want to be successful to help my family and other children who need help. The support that Save the Children gave us will really help us achieve our dreams,” Ibrahim concluded.
Ibrahim is one of the countless hopeful learners in many torils in BARMM that are in need of more support to achieve the quality education that they deserve. He hopes that someday, children will no longer be forgotten.