Feature: Who cares for Lanao kids?
Koronadal City (6 February) -- The Tamaraw FX Taxi that ferried us from Marawi City shifted to higher gear as we traveled towards Gilopa Elementary School in Lanao del Sur. Picturesque Lake Lanao can be seen from a distance as we descended on a stretch of road leading to the school.
Reaching the village school, we saw school kids forming a single line patiently waiting for their turn to receive the rice assistance provided by the United Nations-World Food Programme (UN-WFP).
In support to children in difficult situation and the peace process between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), school children in the province were among the beneficiaries of the food aid funded by the world's humanitarian body.
Children in this conflict-affected province withstood the challenges of economic hardships and shaky peace and order condition. Problems affecting school kids in Lanao del Sur has taken its toll in the educational performance as captured from the study on the State of Education in Mindanao conducted by the Philippine Business for Social Progress in 2002. Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) to which the province belongs, has the lowest elementary cohort survival rate (child's staying power in school) at 33.6%.
Participation rate for both elementary and high school is also the lowest among regions in the country, at 2.4% and 39.2% respectively. Conflict-affected areas in Mindanao registered the highest in drop out rates. These regions are Region XII at 11.6%, Region IX at 12.3% and ARMM to include Lanao Sur at 23.3%.
The food aid for Lanao's school children bring into being the innate goodness of Maranao parents in times of adversity. " Nagtutulungan sila sa pamamahagi ng pagkain "
(They help each other in the distribution of food commodities) Mrs. Samsiya Andang- a Grade I teacher said.
"Sana magtuloy-tuloy na to kasi maraming bata at pamilya ang natutulungan" (I hope this assistance will continue because it greatly helps countless children and families), Kadida Hassan- a mother of one of the kids said.
Members and leaders of the PTCA (parents, teachers and community association) in the village serve as local implementor of the food assistance program. From delivery of the food commodities, repacking and distribution; parents do their best to ensure that food aid reaches its intended beneficiaries; the children.
They also took turns cooking snacks for the children in a supplemental feeding initiative established in the school.
Under the food for education (FFE) component of the program, each school child receives twenty-five (25) kilograms of rice every two months. A school-based feeding program is also in place. Other components include food for training (FFT) among parents and maternal & child nutrition (MCN) for lactating mothers and children below two years old.
Improved class attendance had been noted because of the program. "Absences has been reduced because the children can now focus in their studies instead of going to the farm to help their parents," Mrs. Andang said.
With the strong linkage and partnership among Lanao's local government units, the Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP) and UN-World Food Programme, school children in this conflict-affected and depressed area can continue charting their way towards a progressive and peaceful future by building it now through education. (de-PBSP/ PIA-SarGen) [top]