COTABATO CITY, PHILIPPINES- In a one-day forum and sharing session dubbed as the Honest Conversations of Peace (HCP), more than 20 representatives from Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), youth groups and government ministries in BARMM, expressed and urged the education sector to include peace education as part of the basic curriculum on January 18, 2022, in Cotabato City. This is the second HCP hosted by Equal Access International-Philippines (EAI-PH) which focused on Preventing Violent Extremism through Education (PVE-E).
EAI-PH also shared results from the series of regional forums held in November 2021, highlighting how different the contexts and approaches to PVE-E are in Mindanao geographically. When asked why ‘violent extremism or VE’ is not widely discussed in the region, one participant highlighted that though VE is not a fresh word anymore, there are hesitations coming from both program implementers and the communities.
“There are still biases and prejudices coming from the traumatic experiences as a result of violent extremism (whether directly or indirectly). Government workers are avoiding being red tagged, even community members. We are used to promoting peacebuilding rather than discussing VE,” said some participants. However, better information and knowledge about the matter may encourage communities to engage with stakeholders.
Participants also shared how their respective organizations contribute to preventing violent extremism and peace promotion at a grassroots level whether as school or community-based interventions. When it comes to preventing violent extremism interventions in formal education, there is no specific program that encourages school stakeholders to augment on VE.
“We need to accept the possibility that schools can be targeted by VE organizations in their recruitment activities. Madrasahs are being tagged unknowing stakeholders as breeding ground for VE, which is wrong. Are we doing enough to protect our schools and students?”, asked EAI-PH Program Manager Joel Dizon.
“BARMM’s Ministry of Basic, Higher and Technical Education (MBHTE) is trying to incorporate traditional Madrasahs. MBHTE is working on getting the Education Code and editing the curriculum in BARMM,” said one participant.
Meanwhile, EAI-PH also shared its ongoing pilot roll-out of the education-based toolkit on the prevention of VE, embedded in the Grade 10 Edukasyon sa Pagpapakatao subject with 6 schools and an additional 14 new schools in BARMM and in Region 12. Prior to the roll-out, teachers underwent training and were provided with pandemic-responsive materials to aid their students’ learning experience. EAI-PH also added that MBHTE and DepEd 12 have been supportive in the initiative and are currently taking steps in expanding the roll-out to other areas.
From the HCP, participants expressed that it is high time for the education sector to lobby policy recommendation, facilitate the accreditation of peace education curriculum and recognize Madrasah as an institution.
The Honest Conversations of Peace is one of the banner programs of EAI-Philippines and its CS-LIFT (Communities and Schools Leading in the Fight against Terrorism) project currently implemented in BARMM and in Region 12.