Better education support for kids in armed conflict, disaster-prone areas

MANILA – Save the Children Philippines has called for stronger support for education for children trapped in armed conflict and frequently displaced by natural calamities.

Atty. Alberto Muyot, Save the Children Philippines Chief Executive Officer, raised the call in line with the celebration of International Day of Education on January 24 with the theme: “Learning for people, planet, prosperity, and peace.”

Every year, some 400,000 adolescents in the conflict affected areas in Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) do not attend school due to poverty, according to government figures.

These adolescents also face different forms of violence as well as recruitment by various armed groups.

At the same time, Save the Children is concerned about the situation of half a million learners affected by the continuing eruption of Taal Volcano. These children have been displaced from their homes while their schools are either heavily damaged by ashfall or being used as evacuation centers.

“Save the Children Philippines places education at the forefront of its programs from development to emergency settings, particularly for children who suffer from intersectionality of vulnerabilities including learners with disabilities and indigenous people,” said Muyot.

In the last ten years, Save the Children has reached more than nine million children through its programs in health and nutrition, education and humanitarian response. Of this number, 4.2 million children were provided support to access quality and inclusive learning opportunities.

The group implements the Reach to TEACH program in conflict affected areas of BARMM to provide education to children affected by armed conflict and those living in disaster-stricken communities.

The three-year project (2019-2021) is being implemented in Sulu, Maguindanao, Lanao Del Sur, Marawi City, Surigao del Sur, Bukidnon and Misamis Oriental. These provinces have been experiencing protracted conflict for over 10 years due to insurgency, terrorism, rido (clan feud) and pangayaw (tribal wars).

The program provides children access to developmentally and culturally appropriate instructional and learning materials, and train teachers to provide psychosocial support to learners facing violence due to armed conflict.

The Reach to TEACH program seeks to assist children from 46 schools and nine displaced communities by providing them with learning materials and supplies, and vouchers for improving attendance and participation.

“When children and youth from deprived and marginalized situations get equal access to learning opportunities, education becomes a tool peace-building and development,” Muyot said.

Sierra Paraan, Basic Education advisor of Save the Children Philippines said that inclusion and quality education are the main thrusts of Save the Children Philippines’ education programs.

“People who do not get a chance to receive quality education are more likely to experience socio-economic marginalization and lifelong poverty,” said Paraan. “Promoting an inclusive culture within the education setting contributes to the eradication of discriminatory attitudes and behaviors, further strengthening social cohesion and peace.”

Save the Children also supports policies that advance non-discrimination and the realization of inclusive education for all children. Currently, we are advocating for the enactment of Inclusive Education for Learners with Disabilities Bill.