Moro volunteer group helps parents assist their children in distance learning

Published October 7, 2020, 2:18 PM

by Keith Bacongco

DAVAO CITY – The cycle of conflict in many parts of Mindanao in the previous years did not just displace hundreds of thousands of civilians, but it also disrupted the education of internally displaced people (IDP).

An elderly woman works on her module during the literacy numeracy session in Kabacan, North Cotabato. (Photo courtesy of Moro Peoples Core / MANILA BULLETIN)
An elderly woman works on her module during the literacy numeracy session in Kabacan, North Cotabato. (Photo courtesy of Moro Peoples Core / MANILA BULLETIN)

As a result, many of them were not able to finish their studies even at the elementary level, while there were some who were not even able to step into a classroom at all due to prolonged conflict.

Thus, as classes opened in public schools last Monday, October 5, many of these former IDPs found themselves struggling to assist their children in the distance learning modality under the new normal.  

To help address this, a volunteer-driven organization, Moro Peoples Core (MPCore) in Kabacan, North Cotabato is now assisting communities where some of these former IDPs are now living.

Shaimah Jameel, one of the volunteer teachers of MPCore, told The Manila Bulletin that they have made some adjustments to strengthen their continuing literacy numeracy (litnum) classes amid the pandemic.

Long before the pandemic, Jameel said that several volunteer teachers like her would hike for several kilometers or ride the boat going to the marshy and remote villages of Kabacan to hold litnum classes.

But amid the pandemic, she bared that they had to resort to modular modality as well so as not to disrupt the litnum classes.

The volunteer teacher said that they understood the need to bolster their litnum interventions during this pandemic since parents themselves would be the ones assisting their children’s lessons under this new normal.

Aside from Jameel, several college students from the University of Southern Mindanao (USM) of the same town are also volunteering to serve almost 150 learners coming from three villages.

Many of these learners are located in the villages where the IDPs sought refuge at the height of wars in the last two decades.

Like in one of its serviced village in the marshy area of Barangay Cuyapon, some adult learners were widows of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) fighters.

“The litnum class is open to all but most of our learners are the mothers. However, today, they are struggling because we are not there when they needed some assistance,” Jameel said in the vernacular.

For now, she said that there were so-called community facilitators who were considered as advanced learners who can assist mothers struggling to read and write.

Jameel admitted that the situation is now very challenging because some of the mothers could not assist their learners even with the basic alphabet and numerical lessons

She admitted that, for every 10 mothers, seven of them have not gone to school or even reached grade one due to constant evacuation brought about by the cycle of conflict.

While some parents, the volunteer teacher added, have gone to school but only up to grade two or grade four only. “For now, some learners who are already in the higher grade level are also helping the younger ones as well as the other litnum learners.”

For those who have not gone to school, most of their starter lessons were for basic learning such as color identification, learning the alphabet and counting from one to 30, said Jameel.

The oldest litnum learner, according to her, was an elderly woman, who was over 80 years old, and had never enrolled in a school.

Meanwhile, Jameel appealed to kind-hearted individuals that they needed some basic learning kits such as pencils, crayons and any writing sheets for the litnum classes.

“Life is tough in some of the villages because most of them rely on fishing on the marsh for living and some work as laborers in some ricefield to support their families,” she said

Since MPCore is composed of volunteers, they rely on donations from different individuals, Jameel said adding that they could be reached through their Facebook page.

Barangay Cuyapon Councilor Samraida Balantiawan told The Manila Bulletin that, maybe, she was lucky to have finished first year high school amid the conflict.

Balantiawan, who also serves as one of the volunteer teachers, said life has been so tough these days in the marshy villages because of the pandemic. 

“Life is hard even here in the village proper but it’s even harder in the marshy areas where most of them are former evacuees. Thus, they also needed  basic school supplies for them to continue learning,” she appealed.