One of the world’s longest running historical conflicts is in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) in the southern Philippines. While the Philippine government commenced a peace process with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in 1997, leading to the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) in 2014 and the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law in 2019, challenges still lie ahead.
As in so many conflicts around the world, Mindanao women and children have been particularly affected, including their access to quality education and health services. Not only that, but in a post-conflict era, many women now find themselves more heavily involved in peace building activities, helping to drive change at the community and family level.
Since 2016, the Australian Government-funded Education Pathways to Peace program (“Pathways”) has worked in partnership with the Philippines National Department of Education, and the Government of the BARMM to support conflict-sensitive quality education services in an area with the country’s poorest education learning outcomes. By investing in education, the program and its partners expect to see a positive impact on resilience, stability, and peace in the region.
Delivering Education to Remote Communities
Across Mindanao, Pathways is implementing a series of education strengthening initiatives. One such program, known locally as Abot Kaalaman sa Pamilyang, is helping to deliver education in villages where no formal schooling exists. By building community learning centres – which are co-managed, maintained and supported by BARMM Government catchment schools – and training learning facilitators, Pathways is helping transform education access in remote and marginalised communities. In the 2022/2023 school year, the number of community learning centres increased to 106 across the BARMM, reaching more than 6,000 children.
For so many of these post conflict communities, the role of women as learning facilitators and champions of change is a central and important theme.
Sittie Aisah Sharief Noah, a learning facilitator in remote Lanao del Sur, is proud to help provide innovative and safe access to education for the children in her community. “I chose to become a learning facilitator because my passion is to teach the next generation,” she says. “Now that there is finally a new learning centre, our children can safely go to school and enjoy learning every day without the long trek and the dangers of crossing the river.”
“I hope that more projects like this continue to happen, because there are many children who want to enrol in our learning centres,” she adds.
Princess Rabea Abduhalim is another woman advocating for local education transformation, with support from Pathways. Based on the BARMM island province of Tawi-Tawi, Princess works with civil society partners and learning facilitators to build important education building blocks for early grade students.
“We all know that every Bangsamoro child shares the dream of a better future. Whenever a child succeeds in reading and writing, I am also happy along with their parents and the community. I believe this is our road to peace, because education provides these children with the foundational path to change.”
Education is Everyone’s Business
For remote communities in Sulu, Pathways-supported learning centres have had unexpected benefits for the mothers and grandmothers of students. With their own education interrupted due to decades of conflict, many local women didn’t hesitate to enrol their children and grandchildren in the newly constructed learning centres. Not only that, but they have continued to help with cleaning and cooking for each centre, and eventually enrolled themselves in adult literacy and numeracy classes.
“Learning in school was something denied when we were growing up. The reasons were a combination of armed conflict and poverty. We wanted to also learn so that we can help our children with their lessons at home. There is hope,” explains Sigkaturna, a local mother from Pasil village in Sulu.
With women playing an active role in the peace building process, the BARMM’s road to peace will be a more inclusive journey for all.
For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org or read 'How Education Pathways to Peace Built and Strengthened its Team Remotely.'