ARMM Mayors Take on Role as Change Agents

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Poverty has direct correlation with poor education. This prompted former Sarangani Governor  Miguel “Migs” Dominguez of Synergeia Foundation to quote the late Nelson Mandela in his opening address during the Local School Board workshop in Davao City early this month.

Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice. Like Slavery and Apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. Sometimes it falls on a generation to be great. YOU can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom.–Nelson Mandela

Mayors and representatives from participating local governments under the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) were challenged to become active agents of change and lift the educational status of children in their respective municipalities. With 5 out of 10 children out of school, ARMM has the lowest student participation in the country. “What does this mean after 20 years? Is the future brighter or darker for Mindanao?” Gov. Migs asked in Filipino. A complete show of hands answered his question as to who would haul the region out of darkness.

The USAID-funded workshop aims to promote effective Education Governance that empowers the LSB and encourages participation of all stakeholders including parents, teachers, school heads and the local government.  Integrity and transparency are always stressed in the forums as participants share various experiences regarding problems they face and effective measures they have undertaken or are in the plans.

Some of the seasoned Synergeia mayors from the region attested to the value of expanding the LSB under an active leadership. By involving all stakeholders, the LSB can come up with sustainable programs suited for specific educational needs of children in each community.

Mayor Ramon Piang of Upi appealed to his constituents to work together with education district supervisors instead of backbiting each other. “Sa educational governance, walang balat-sibuyas. Hindi yung local executives sinisiraan ang supervisors and vice versa. Sa halip, nagtutulungan para lalong gumanda ang edukasyon sa ARMM.” He said education governance reform in Upi began with the mayor and supervisor presenting the statistics together during a municipality-wide educational summit.

Paglat, a fairly new municipality in Maguindanao, started with two elementary schools and now boasts of 9 schools because of the leadership’s focus on education. Former Mayor and current administrator Datu Abdulkarim Langkuno admitted that he once had misgivings about working with Synergeia Foundation because past experience made him consider all educational foundations as merely about propaganda. Through the late Mayor Toto Paglas, he met with Synergeia Chief Dr. Nene Guevara and his outlook changed. He is now even more eager to pursue programs that will elevate the educational status of children in Paglat.

Mayor Jasper Que of Bongao, Tawi-Tawi, said one of the greater challenges in his area was getting parents involved in their children’s education. “They were wary of us, offered excuses of being busy and left the responsibility solely to the teachers,” he said in Filipino. An LSB team in Bongao was formed to gather data that showed some children in Grade 5 and 6 still did not know how to read. The team then went down to the field and presented the statistics to the parents. Once they understand the situation, parents are more willing to cooperate, Mayor Jasper said. A 3-hour tutorial program every Saturday and Sunday was then implemented. “Even the participation rate of teachers increased,” he said.

The LSB-ARMM Workshop was held in Davao City on Dec. 6-7 with 20 participating LGUs from the region. These include new members Barira, Buldon, Datu Blah Sinsuat, Gen. S.K. Pendatun, Hadji Panglima Tahil, Mamasapano, Pagalungan, South Upi, Sultan sa Barongis, Talipao, and Taraka. Old members are Balindong, Bongao, Datu Paglas, Jolo, Paglat, Parang, Siasi, Simunul, and Upi.


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