Marawi Learners go back to school, a year after the siege with new hope

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MARAWI CITY  (June 7)– Najib Sarip, 16, and Yasser Marohom, 14, are supposed to be in grade seven now, but at the opening of classes on Monday, they were seen sitting together in the classroom that they were in two years ago in Saduc Elementary School (SES).

Teacher Salima Tampi, grade five adviser, said Najib was promoted to grade six in 2017 ended and was supposed to be in grade seven this school year, had he entered grade six last year.

Instead of going to school, he worked as laborer in Saguiaran town in Lanao del Sur when his family fled Marawi City to get away from the gun battle. When the military allowed the return of residents who lived in the cleared areas like Barangay Saduc in November last year, Najib’s family grabbed the opportunity to return to Marawi and stayed with his grandparents as home-based survivors. They came from Padian, a place inside the former main battle ground, where residents are still prohibited to return to.

Now that SES, the school nearest to where they are temporarily living, has been opened, Najib joined with his cousin, neighbor and bestfriend Yasser to go to school with not even one notebook, wearing his short pants and dirty slippers. He said, he wanted to finish his studies and become a soldier. “Para malabanan ko ang mga ISIS, kasi palaging magulo dito sa amin,” he told reporters.

He did not want to go to the grade six classroom though . “Nahihiya ako,” Najib said grabbing Yasser’s hand, trying to bring with him to his class. But Yasser have to go back to grade five because he has not completed the required number of school days he has to attend to.  Even before the war broke out, he has already stopped schooling. “Hinatid ko na siya (Najib) kanina doon (grade 6 room), pero bumalik dito,” Tampi said. “Siya (pointing to Yasser) kasi, ayaw pumunta doon (grade 6 room). Ayaw ko pumunta mag-isa kasi nahihiya ako. Dito lang ako,” Najib said.

“Marami kasing bagong mga estudyante,” teacher Tampi said.  Sainollah Baute Salem, assistant school principal of SES pointed out that nearby schools like the Romoros Elementary School and Natangcopan Elementary School, are facing closure order per Department of Education Order No. 40, series of 2016 for not complying with the department’s standard and requirements. “Right now, we have 339 enrollees, ngayon lang yan. We are expecting more enrollees in the coming days kasi hindi pa 100% bumalik ang mga residente ng tatlong barangay,” Salem said.

Saduc is surrounded by three barangays -Saduc Proper, Panggao Saduc and Raya Saduc and it is the nearest barangay to the former main battle ground. This is the reason why schools in the cleared areas that have opened on Monday have increased their enrollees. In Amai Pakpak Central Elementary School, grade one teacher Amerah Salic-Daluma said she has already 45 enrollees but on the first day of classes, many have not yet went to school. “Kasi Ramadan kaya marami pa hindi pumasok. Dumami ngayon kasi ang ibang bata na nagbakwit, dito na nag-aral,” she said.

Anna Zenaida Unte, Assistant Schools Division Superintendent of Marawi City, said that out of 69 public elementary and high schools in the Division of Marawi, 20 are located inside the most affected area while 49 are in the cleared area. The 20 schools inside the most affected area will be consolidated into three or four to be constructed in the next three years according to Unte. “While waiting for this, Marawi learners  will be enrolled to where they sought refuge. ”

There are around 11,000 elementary and high school learners from the most affected area, while there are around 20,000 from the cleared areas.  Both were displaced by the five-month conflict.

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