BUTIG, LANAO DEL SUR ----- Soldiers of the Army's 49th Infantry Battalion have inaugurated on Monday morning (July 8), a classroom for more than 40 kindergarten children, aged 4 years old, of an elementary school in Barangay Ragayan, here.
This after finding out that around 40 children, aged 4 to 5 years old, are squatting on the floor as they hold their classes since the start of school year 2018-2019 in June.
Built during Brigada Eskwela in May, the makeshift temporary learning space (TLS) has only roof to shed the children from the heat of the sun and from the rain, no walls, no kiddie tables, just few pieces of wooden long chairs voluntarily made by Wahab Macabayao, a husband of one of the teachers, who is the school's watchman.
The blackboard has faded. It is the only thing the teachers have retrieved after the four military operations against the Dawlah Islamiya in 2016.
"Naglalatag lang ng banig sa sahig para upuan ng mga bata habang nagka-klase at iba nakakatulog. Kapag umulan, ang mga nakatira sa malapit nakakauwi kaagad, ang mga nasa malayo, hihintayin kung huminto ang ulan saka sila pauwiin, pero nababasa na rin kung malakas kasi walang dingding," said Namraida Bao, the school principal.
(We put on a mat for the children to squat while having classes and some evem got asleep. When it rains we let the children who live nearby to go home. Those who are living afar will wait for the to stop but when they get home, they eventually get wet especially if it rains hard because the classroom has no walls.)
In June 12, Lieutenant Colonel Edgar Allan Villanueva, commander of the Army's 49th Infantry Battalion, have seen the situation when he visited the area.
Villanueva said the residents, particularly the teachers and the parents to help them coordinate with the right agencies for the rehabilitation of the school.
Aside from repairing the kindergarten classroom, the Army had also put some laminated plastic sacks (trapal) to the classrooms for grade 1 to grade 6 pupils to protect them from the heat of the sun of from the rains. The roofs has still bullet holes on it.
"Tumulong kami at na-communicate namin ang ICRC (International Committee on the Red Cross), pero dahil matagal ang proseso, nagdecide kami na temporary ayusin muna kahit papaano yong school para makapag klase sila araw-araw na hindi ma-uulanan o maiinitan while waiting sa complete repair ng school nila," Villanueva said.
(We help and we were able to communicate with the ICRC (International Committee on the Red Cross), but since the process is long, we decided to temporarily fix the school so that they can hold classes everyday without them getting wet from the rain and be burned by the sun.)
"Ang AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) particularly the Philippine Army ay ini-implement 'yong AFP Campaign Plan Development Support and Security Plan (DSSP) Kapayapan, na hindi lang naka-focus (that is not only focusef) to address yong insurgency but also in facilitating the delivery of basic services sa mga tao in coordination sa LGU (local government unit), community officials at line government agencies," he added.
Lanao del Sur District Supervisor Johaila Balt encouraged the teachers to be passionate of their work and maximize their efforts to give quality to their school children to reciprocate the effort of the soldiers who are do only stay in Butig to secure the community but also to help the Department of Education.
"Let us maximize our efforts for our school children. If we are to report at 7:00 in the morning, let us come one hour before that," Balt said in her message.
There are 11 elementary and eight primary schools in the second district of Lanao del Sur that need to be rehabilitated.
"My problem is... these schools are geographically far from one another and many are inaccesible to motor vehicles," Balt said.
Ragayan Elementary School was badly affected by war.
Aerial bombings and ground fightings destroyed the school.
One building, which has three classroom has nothing left except some posts when it was burned by either bombing or by the terrorists.
"Let us pay more attention to our children because they are our future," Butig Mayor Jimmy Pansar said.
Ragayan Elementary School had 260 pupils before the battle according to Bao and only 171 so far have come back to Butig after those families fled to different areas and did not yet come back.
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