By Ramel Palapo
ALAMADA, NORTH COTABATO – A kids fight in a school in Mindanao almost escalated into an ugly conflict between Muslims and Christians.
The school, named Rebi Elementary School, is located on a mountain in the far north of North Cotabato. It takes a long hike or otherwise an hour of bumpy ride to reach the place. It has around 200 pupils, 80% of whom are Muslims.
Six of eight teachers in the school are Christians from outside the community. Mr. Jeane Magaro, the school head, is also an outsider. He rides his motorbike everyday to reach the school.
Mr. Magaro narrated how the problem started last year. “During that time, may seminar ako, one of my teachers tumawag saakin. Kasi yung dalawang bata ay nag-away, a Muslim and a Christian. As in physical violence talaga. Nagkasakitan talaga sila sa loob ng room. Natakot na kami kasi one week na pero di namin naaayos. (During that time, I was in a seminar when one of my teachers called. There were two pupils fighting inside the room, a Muslim and a Christian. It involved physical violence. We got worried because it wasn’t resolved even after a week had passed.)
The school head was worried because of the religious undertone involved in the fighting. The jokes thrown by the Christian and Muslim kids to each other were getting worse. Emmy Rose Morimbuar, a Grade 6 Christian pupil, shared a banter among them, “Yung Diyos nyo na nakapako sa krus, ilaglag yan sa impyerno! Sabi naman ng Kristyano, ‘Ang Allah nyo baboy!’” (Your God on the cross, we’ll pull him down in hell. Christians would then hit back, ‘Your Allah is a pig!’)
“That’s just child’s play,” parents would say. But eventually, some of the parents also became part of the fight. A concerned parent recalled, “Yung parent ng isang Muslim, pumunta rito [sa school]. Pinakulata nya yung isang Christian na bata. Pinabugbog. Inutusan nya na bugbugin ang isang Christian.” (A Muslim parent went to the school. He told his son to beat the Christian boy.)
The situation created fear in the school and community. Mr. Magaro added, “Syempre ang mga bata takot na mag-aral. Yung batang yun takot na pumasok dito kasi binabantayan nga. Damay-damay na kasi mayroon na sila barkada. Kasi nasa Grade 5 na. So yung mga barkada natakot na rin magpasok. Even kaming teachers, takot na rin kami. Baka masali rin kami.” (The children were scared of school. The boy, who was hurt, wouldn’t enter the school because he was being watched. Their peers were siding with them. One group was afraid of the other. Even us teachers were afraid. They may turn to us.)
The school head approached CheckMySchool about this problem. CMS coordinator Ramel Palapo was requested to assist in convening the community members, particularly the parents.
The parents came and participated in the dialogue, which proved to be productive. Many were pleasantly surprised that it was possible.
Mr. Magaro was very thankful. “Na-resolve din through the help [of CMS] na ganyan at through the help din ng parents. Pumunta rin sila dito sa akin, ‘Sir, wag ka na mag-problema, gagawa rin kami ng paraan para ma-solve ang problema.’ After noon, ang parent ng Muslim ay pumunta sa parent ng Christian para ma-settle na talaga.” (“It was resolved through the assistance of CMS and the parents’ cooperation. They also approached me saying, ‘Sir, don’t worry, we’ll also find a way to address the problem.’ After that, the parents of quarreling children settled their differences.”)
He also added, “Nung magawa ang move na yun, at na-resolve ang problema, napakalaking regalo sa amin na naging maganda na ang relasyon. Even ngayon wala na problema. Even kami mga teachers dito, wala na kami problema.” Encouraging the community members to talk to one another helped resolve the problem. The harmonious relationship is truly a gift for us. Teachers no longer have worries.)
To strengthen the relations with Muslims, Mr. Regaro applied the school in the Arabic Language and Islamic Values Education (ALIVE). It is a program of the Department of Education intended to “further enhance the education system for the Filipino Muslim learners and ensure that they will have access to quality education that is also in line with the Muslim cultural heritage.” (Department of Education. 2016, July 16. Inclusive education for the Filipino Muslim learners.)
The school head shared that both Muslims and Christians were interested in the program and were allowed to attend the classes. This endeared him to the community.
District PTA president Jalani Singson, who is also a Muslim barangay council leader, commended him for it. “Ginawa nya yung kailangan. Di namin i-judge kung gaano kaganda ang salita, pero gaano kaganda ang gawin mo na mayroon kami halaga sayo.” (He did what needs to be done. We don’t judge people based on their nice words, but on their good actions that make us feel valued.)
If there’s any issue, problem or anything that you think needs improvement in your school, let us know if CMS can help. Go to http://www.checkmyschool.org/cms-can-help/.