KISSA AND DAWAT: On national inclusion and diversity

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CEBU CITY (MindaNews / 12 Nov) — About 200 school heads across the country converged in the city for a three-day immersion on Arabic language and Islamic values on November 6 to 8. This is part of the capacitation package for public school leaders to be able to manage and supervise the implementation of the Arabic Language and Islamic Values Education (ALIVE) Program in their schools. ALIVE is a component of the Muslim Education Program (MEP) of the Department of Education. In turn, MEP is one of the three components of the Inclusion Education policy package; the other two are Special Education (SPED) and IP Education.

This three-day event aimed to orient school leaders on the latest policy direction and operational guidelines of the MEP. This was emphasized by Jose Tuguinayo, Jr, division chief of Student Inclusion, in the opening of the plenary session. He stressed that school leaders play a pivotal role in success of program implementation as articulated in the latest MEP policy per DepEd Order 41, series of 2017.

There was also a session on cultural immersion, orienting school heads about the nuances about Islamic values and culture and participants had the chance to clarify personal perceptions and experiences whether it is part of Islam or part of local tradition. This is important for school leaders to be able to relate with their ALIVE teachers and the Muslim community in their locality.

Finally, the third part of the training focused on Arabic language immersion to give school leaders an opportunity to appreciate the language. There were exercises to write Arabic letters and produce its corresponding sounds, to read and write Arabic letters, syllables, words and common expressions. This is simply a beginning immersion but enough to appreciate some basics about the language. With this immersion, school leaders are confident in exercising their supervisory role on ALIVE classes and able to provide quality feedbacking to the ALIVE teachers.

It is personally invigorating to see school leaders really engaged, open in expressing their views and in the process clarifying certain stereotypes and prejudices, volunteers to share their newly-gained skill in writing and reading in Arabic on the board and to hear that they are eager to use what they have learned in this training as they relate with their ALIVE teachers, learners and parents and Muslim leaders in their locality.

As a peace educator, the coming together of people from diverse backgrounds and working together for common good is always a good sight to behold. Truly as expressed in an IBO website years back, developing an understanding of the nature and value of one’s culture (and if I may add, one’s language) is a fundamental starting point for any education program. This is certainly true of the ALIVE learners where they learned about themselves as indigenous Muslim and as well as being Filipino citizens of this democratic republic. Truly a welcome manifestation of inclusion and understanding and learning to live together in diversity. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Noor Saada is a Tausug of mixed ancestry – born in Jolo, Sulu, grew up in Tawi-tawi, studied in Zamboanga and worked in Davao, Makati and Cotabato. He is a development worker and peace advocate, former Assistant Regional Secretary of the Department of Education in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, currently working as an independent consultant and is a member of an insider-mediation group that aims to promote intra-Moro dialogue).

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