Sorayda, 40, constantly struggles to look for safety in sending her 11 children to school amid lingering gun battles in her town in Lanao Del Norte.
All her children have been performing well in school, but the lack of access to television and online technologies prevent them from continuing education as face-to-face classes have been postponed to prevent exposure to COVID-19.
“They are sad because they do not know when they are going back to school,” said Sorayda. “My fourth child is actually the top in his class and he is disappointed not to receive his gold medal.”
To help address the concern, Save the Children Philippines will launch the Safe Schools of the Future project in Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) that will begin in August 2020 to give school-age children access to an inclusive and safe learning space.
“The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic inevitably exacerbate the situation of families in conflict-affected areas in Mindanao, where the vulnerable and marginalized children are expected to bear the brunt,” said Atty. Alberto Muyot, Chief Executive Officer of Save the Children Philippines.
The Safe Schools of the Future provides materials and tools that facilitate learning in emergencies and protracted crisis settings. It also capacitates the resilience of teachers, parents, and the whole community through psychosocial support and community participation.
Edwin Horca, Team Leader of Save the Children Philippines-BARMM offices, said the Safe Schools of the Future project aims to improve the quality of education in the region through teacher training on digital education, and use of innovation and technology for teaching.
“The program aims to bridge the digital divide and divisions in communities through inclusive education and technology while promoting justice and peace,” said Horca.
Meanwhile, Save the Children Philippines, through the ReACh 2 TEACH project funded by European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO), continues to provide hygiene kits and personal protective equipment, along with basic health support and hygiene promotion based on the indigenous norms and practices, to ensure protection of children and adults from COVID-19.
Sorayda and 126 families in Bakwit Village in Matungao in Lanao Del Norte are among the beneficiaries of the two projects of Save the Children Philippines.
She said three years since their house was burned during the Marawi siege, they still face problems on lack of access to water, clean toilets as well as sanitation and hygiene facilities in the shelters.
“We need to walk two kilometers, travel across mountains just to fetch drinking water and do our laundry,” Sorayda told Save the Children.
“We also can’t wash our hands that often. We don’t even have the money to buy soap, we’d rather use it to buy food,” said Soraya who also expressed her ordeal in living in an 18-square meter shelter which is hard for her and her children during summer and heavy rains.
The child rights organization has distributed 733 hygiene kits with rubbing alcohol, bath soap and face masks including information and communication materials in identified barangays in Lanao del Sur, Lanao del Norte and Maguindanao reaching 4,514 individuals.
“Save the Children Philippines believes that swift and decisive actions to provide health support and continuity learning programs will have a far-reaching impact on the lives of the most vulnerable children in Mindanao,” said Muyot.