BONGAO LOCAL SCHOOL BOARD – AN EPITOME OF EXCELLENCE

The government of Bongao believed that strengthening the Local School Board is crucial in addressing education issues as well as in achieving their vision to have a quality elementary education in Bongao.

“I really want to improve Education sa Bongao because I don’t want parents sending their children to other places anymore just to get quality education. I want them to get quality education in a place they consider their home. Quality education is a great investment for the future of our children and at the same time in improving the community at large”, said the current Local Chief Executive, Mayor Jimuel Que.

With a stronger LSB, numerous campaigns and initiatives that involved the whole community of Bongao, and not just those in the academe, were pursued. These initiatives were introduced by the Bongao Local School Board under the administration of the late Hon. Mayor Albert T. Que, which were continued by former Mayor Jasper S. Que and now, by Mayor Jimuel Que.

To achieve their vision of having a quality elementary education in Bongao, the current Local School Board started with identifying the needs of the community and schools alike by asking the following questions:  What do the parents of the learners want from the schools that their children are attending? What do they expect from their children’s teachers? What are the current programs that need enhancement aside from tutorial classes and reading classes? Is the LSB doing enough? (Aming, 2021) 

They asked the stakeholders such as District Supervisors, School Principals, Teachers, Parents, Community Organizations, partner agencies, Barangay Officials, and even the learners.  They tried to reach  communities in far-flung barangays of Bongao even if accessibility was difficult.  They were guided by the formula followed by the entire Bongao government: enhanced partnerships with inclusivity. (Aming, 2021) People in Bongao were informed of programs and exciting initiatives that could turn their children’s life around.  This resulted in the change in values and acceptance of people of progress in the community.

Bongao LSB became education-centered.  It sought partnerships such as with the Synergeia Foundation and the USAID Education Governance Effectiveness (EdGE) Program to avail of training programs to continuously improve the quality of basic education in the municipality.

To sustain its mission, Bongao LSB conducts monthly meetings to discuss project results and give immediate resolutions to pressing concerns. Monthly meetings became an avenue for regular updates on various education development projects and programs conducted.  Such projects and programs were centered on teachers’ trainings to enhance teachers’ capacity in effectively teaching the pupils; feeding programs for malnourished schoolchildren; PTA meetings for the establishment of community-parent-teacher relationships and the construction of school buildings to cater to more learners and for a more conducive learning environment.

Specifically, the Bonggao LSB initiated and supported the following programs to improve the education of their children: 

  • Tutorial classes and reading classes were conducted for slow and non-readers which made an enormous progress on the part of the learners as based on data collected in 2012. (Aming, 2021)
  • The Establishment of “Kusina ng Kalinga” Central Kitchen in partnership with Gawad Kalinga, DepEd-ARMM (now MBHTE-BARMM) was also formally launched and opened last February 27, 2017.
  • On capacity-building, the School Governing Council (SGC) conducted a Workshop from the 22nd to 23rd of November 2017.
  • To ensure proper documentation, monitoring and evaluation and most importantly, the sustainability of education programs, Four (4) Multi-Cab Vehicles were respectively distributed to the Four (4) Districts of Bongao: Bongao I District, Bongao II District, Bongao III District, and Bongao Central District, on January 26, 2018 in Bongao, Tawi-Tawi.
  • The Bongao Local School Board also had its 2021 Summer Reading Program from August 2, 2021 to September 3, 2021 for Grades 1 to 3 learners from the four (4) Bongao Districts.
  • A One (1) Unit, Two (2) Classrooms School Buiding with Comfort Room will also be constructed at Mandulan Elementary School, in Barangay Mandulan, Bongao, Tawi-Tawi in partnership with Synergeia Foundation.
  • Photocopier Machines were turned over to Four (4) Bongao District Offices in September 29, 2020 and also to Five (5) Secondary Schools in Bongao just last October 16, 2020

Bongao LSB’s hardwork paid off when they received the award of the Seal of Good Education Governance awarded by Synergeia Foundation for 3 consecutive years from year 2017-2019. Indeed, Bongao’s Local School Board improved schoolchildren’s lives and generally the people’s lives as it made a huge difference on the people of Bongao.

BARANGAY JUSTICE SYSTEM: THE JUSTICE LEAGUE IN BUS-BUS

“Lupons are superheroes”, these were the exact words of Jolo Vice Mayor Ezzidien Tan during his closing remarks at the Barangay Justice System Workshop last December 14, 2021 at Municipal Gymnasium. The statement rings true especially to the residents of Barangay Bus-Bus as their Lupons had saved them everyday from injustices, and from the story I will tell you now.

At a fine day in Bus-Bus, just like any other regular boring days, two neighbors met each other. They were talking and joking until their jokes turned into insults which resulted to the two men despising one another. Their foul relationship went worse until one day, they got engaged in a fight using weapons this time, a knife to be precise. Seeing the severity of the case as one party needs surgery, the Barangay Justice System of Busbus looked into the matter carefully. For them, it was the worst case they had handled. However, with the excellent processes the Barangay Justice System of Busbus had been practicing since then, as well as the generosity of their Punong Barangay in covering other expenses needed for the surgery, the problem was settled at the Barangay level. If without the excellent resolutions made, the problem could have escalated, spreading the two men’s animosity for each other along with their families.

So, how did the Barangay Justice System of Busbus handled such critical issue well?

The BJS-Bus-Bus has 12 chosen Lupon members where each sector was well-represented. There are representatives from women, youth and also from old folks. Their reason is that BJS is for everyone and so that each issues could be addressed with utmost sincerity, trust and empathy because according to Mr. Ali B. Salapuddin, BJS-Bus-Bus Administrator, “awn mga parakalah, sila da in maghatihi” [there are issues that only someone like them could understand them better]. The complainant could choose from among the 12 Lupons, the 3 Lupons that would go through his/her complaint so that the fear of bias to the opposing party could be removed, and the comfort on raising his/her issue could be provided. In addition to their objectiveness, BJS-Bus-Bus are also composed of hard-working individuals who works around the clock, and even on weekends and holidays especially if there’s an issue that needs immediate resolution. Further, every proceeding is observed with due process, and is recorded and well-documented. Along with the remarks of the case- settled, pending or endorsed, these documents are submitted to the Municipal Trial Court quarterly.

In other words, the Barangay Justice System of Busbus addresses issues with objectiveness, dedication and accuracy. Because of these excellent practices, BJS-Bus-Bus became qualified for Lupong Tagapamayapa Incentives Award in BARMM for 2 consecutive years.  Just this month, they were processing for Provincial Validation (National Level) and for the Regional Validation (National Level).

However, all of these will not be achieved without great leadership and support from its leader/administrator, Mr. Alih B. Salapuddin. He was thankful that he could play a part on the operations of BJS-Bus-Bus. He mentioned that he was always there for the team, supporting and assisting them in their queries and endeavors that are related to the BJS as he could see the noble vision and purpose of the department. “Being the head of the most crucial department in the barangay, I am glad that I am able to monitor and spearhead BJS operations of Bus-Bus” he said.

When asked about the leader whom he admires the most, he did not battle an eye to think. He mentioned Sir Adi and Ma’am Almaida Undug. For him, he saw the qualities a leader should have in this power duo. “They inspire me to be like them in handling cases in the BJS-Bus-Bus- Calm, Impartial, Generous and Committed”. For Sir Ali, a leader should have the following values and traits: Integrity, Impartiality, Patience, Resourcefulness, Open-mindedness, Flexibility, Commitment and Dedication to help the Barangay. And these for him, shall be the traits of Lupon members. Community members shall be able to observe these characteristics in a person before they could nominate him/her.

For the Lupon members, their primary role is to provide immediate solutions to disputes occurring in the grassroots; and to resolve disputes fairly and speedily as salient part of the barangay’s function is to promote peace and harmonious relationship among community members.

Lastly, BJS Bus-Bus thanked Synergeia and GCERF for featuring them so that they can share their best practices especially to other barangays so that in the future, they can receive hand-in-hand the Lupong Tagapamayapa Incentive Award given by BARMM.

The importance of Barangay Justice System and its awareness and proper implementation manifests clear solutions for every issues and solving disputes at the barangay level. Thus, it implies the promotion for peace, equality and fairness especially to disadvantaged people deprived of justice system in Sulu. They serve as the justice league of the people; the unsung heroes.

A GIFT FOR EID

Ama E’ Diamond sold bananas on the streets of Marantao before Covid-19 struck in 2020. Despite the difficulties that accompanied his source of livelihood, he remained grateful for having the strength to support his family despite his frail condition continually. Ama, already a senior citizen, also suffered from partial blindness. He would walk long distances each day to be able to sell bananas every day. However, when the pandemic and its accompanying lockdown hit Marantao, his only source of income was severely affected. He remained at home and joined the many other community members who had to rely on government assistance.

Last May 03, in the Spirit of the Muslim feast of Eid Fitr, marking the end of the holy period of Ramadan, Ama became one of the beneficiaries of “A GIFT FOR EID”. The SK leaders of Marantao spearheaded the project. For several days during Ramadan and on the celebration of the Eid, they went around the different houses of the vulnerable groups of the community to distribute food packs that the group solicited from various groups and organizations.

The laudable initiative of the youth leaders was an offshoot of the BRAVE for Youth program, which Synergeia conducted in the Municipality of Marantao , together with ten other municipalities across Lanao Del Sur, Maguindanao and Sulu from August 2021 to March 2022.

Project BRAVE provided young people from 12 municipalities across Mindanao with different opportunities to participate in governance and community development. It created spaces were young leaders interacted with peers, giving them greater freedom to express their ideas without inhibition.

The program strengthened the Sanguniang Kabataan ( SK), an institution in long been neglected in local governance. Project BRAVE harnessed the potential of SK in engaging the youth to participate in the prevention of violent extremism actively and become leaders for bringing peace and positive changes in their communities.

Project BRAVE used arts, culture, and heritage as platforms for mobilizing, empowering, and building the capacity of our young leaders. An appreciation of cultural diversity fostered fairer,

inclusive, and pluralistic societies. An understanding of their heritage strengthened their sense of identity and their desire to protect their communities by resisting attempts at violence.

The arts festival provided young people with opportunities to express themselves on the following themes: education for all, justice for all, good governance, unity in diversity, and good citizenry. SK

members gave meaning to the themes through drawing, photography, poetry, and dances.

SK members shared their advocacies behind their artworks. Finally, these advocacies were summarized into an action program that the SK in every village could implement.

( with reports from Saliha Masorong – SK President – Marantao)