Mindanao peace educators push for more 'classhomes'

Davao City, May 27 – “In peace education, a classroom is no longer a classroom but a classhome,” according to a Department of Education (DepEd) regional coordinator during a recent forum here where different Schools of Peace (SoP) gathered to share success stories and advocate continuous support for peace education in Mindanao.

During the 2011 Mindanao Peace Education Forum held at Hotel Elena in this city, DepEd Region XII Regional Peace Coordinator Agney Taruc shared how SoP in their region transformed teachers, students and their communities.

SoP, according to Taruc, are academic institutions transformed by integrating peace education to the school curriculum.
“We’re aiming that our product – our students, are peace-loving people who will become leaders someday in our community. We are putting special programs to strengthen their capacity and values, and then to establish leaders who are gearing towards the adaptation of peace values,” he said.

School heads becoming more encouraging, teachers revering peace values, students experiencing genuine care inside the classroom, conflicts being settled peacefully, communities being empowered, children smiling – these are some of the things that Taruc observed in the SoP in his region.
More of these testimonies were heard in the forum sponsored by Action for Conflict Transformation (ACT) for Peace Programme, which led the mainstreaming of peace education in Mindanao in 2006.

ACT for Peace, a project under the United Nations Development Programme, aims to strengthen peace and development efforts in southern Philippines. It anchors its peace education initiatives on the 2006 Executive Order No. 570 “Institutionalizing Peace Education in Basic Education and Teacher Education.”
Meanwhile, Taruc related that since seeing the effects of integrating peace concepts in the school curriculum, he has vowed to replicate this effort, not just in Region XII, but in all of Mindanao.
“This is no longer compliance to the mandate, this is my vocation. Para bang dito na ko tatanda, ito na ang landas na aking tatahakin (It seems that this is where I will grow old, this is what I am destined for). If possible all the schools in the entire Mindanao will be touched and become conscious and sensitive to peace,” he stated.

Testimonies of peace
In Region IX, Lucia Pamplona of Dinas Central Elementary School – SoP reported that peace education was instrumental in preventing rido (clan wars) in their community. Pamplona said that conflict between students in school will usually spark a rido, but in the emergence of peace education, the outlook of students and families have been geared towards peace and understanding.

“I hope that this (peace education) will continue because of the culture of love and understanding that we’ve inculcated in the communities,” Pamplona added.

Commissioner Norma Sharief of the Commission on Higher Education-Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (CHED-ARMM) shared that their institution has started a scholarship program called “Rebels Turned Scholars” where children of former rebels or former rebels themselves are offered financial assistance to pursue college education.

On the other hand, Ronald Torres of Mindanao State University-Maguindanao recounted how peace education has extended from the classroom to the community. Torres said that they have been conducting livelihood programs for internally displaced persons (IDPs) and rebel returnees.

Torres likewise mentioned that they have been partnering with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) 6th Infantry Division for conducting community projects for out-of-school youth.

Reyzalde Tan, Deputy Programme Manager of ACT for Peace, explained that the framework of school of peace is not confined in the classroom but it also includes the community.

“OSY (out-of-school youth) activities are part of the approach of extending the culture of peace to the community,” said Tan.

In Region X, Madrasah Focal Person Dr. Shambaeh Usman reported that the Muslims and Christians had a “better relationship” since they implemented peace education.

Usman said that there is an increase in participation among Muslim students in school activities and projects since they now feel a “strong sense of belongingness.”

“Peace education brought recognition of individual differences, better understanding, and respect for individual diversity,” he noted.

Continuing the vision

Day two of the forum focused on formulating plans to sustain the goals of peace education.

Participants agreed that peace education should continue to progress in Mindanao, and would need increased funding and policy support from stakeholders.

“It is in forums like this that we share the vision, we articulate the vision, then influencing the powers that be,” said Happy Raagas, the forum facilitator.

Raagas further encouraged the participants to be hopeful on the prospects of peace education in Mindanao.

“Let’s not feel hopeless, if we give up on these efforts, sino pa ba ang magpapatuloy nito (who else will continue these)? Definitely, to give up now, is to give up on that future. This is actually the foundation to continue what we’re doing,” he said.

The Mindanao Development Authority will now lead the promotion of peace education in Mindanao as the ACT for Peace Programme ends its mandate this May.

To date, there are 61 SOPs scattered all over Mindanao, two of which are in Palawan. #