Al-Barka mayor seeks more support to education as “wars here will not help the youth”

ZAMBOANGA CITY (MindaNews/16 April 2016) — Al-Barka Mayor Darussalam Majid reiterated his appeal for more support to education for his young constituents, following the series of armed encounters in the boundaries of Al-Barka and Tipo-Tipo towns in Basilan province.

“At present, Al-Barka has very few primary schools, and the wars here will not help the youth,” the mayor shared, as he added that “lack of proper education” is one “big factor” in the peace and order situation in the municipality.

“There is no high school in Al-Barka, and high school is the part when the young are most vulnerable to lawlessness.  I was thinking that we start with having the first two years first, like Grades 7 and 8,” he said.

He recalled that last year, under the auspices of the Australian AID-BEAM (or Basic Education Assistance for Mindanao) Project by Mein, Inc. for Basilan, short technical-vocational courses were offered for 75 out-of-school youth (OSY) from three barangays, and one of these was Kuhun Lennuh. No other educational project was ever implemented in Al-Barka. He believes that education is the answer so that the lawless will not succeed in recruiting more OSY.

Al-Barka has been the frequent site of armed conflict between government troops and the Abu Sayyaf Group, which is known to commit terror-related acts.

The mayor said the most affected residents following the April 9 clash that left at least 18 soldiers dead and at least 50 others injured are from Bohe Piang and Kuhun Lennuh communities, but residents even of neighboring areas also evacuated to other places temporarily.

Mujib Jakilan, barangay chair of Kuhun Lennuh and President of the Association of Barangay Councils (ABC) in a separate interview said the barangay hall is now being used as the evacuation center “and those mostly residing near the boundary are the ones housed there, particularly the women and children.”

“It is in Bohe Piang that ASG presence is strong,” Jakilan said, as he expressed concern over residents from the village whose chair is Abdulnaris Jakliran. Both Jakilan and Jakliran are spearheading community efforts not only for the safety of the civilian populace, but also for post-conflict assistance.

“The security forces are blocking ASG to penetrate Kuhun Lennuh, although many ASG are still in Bohe Piang (in AlBarka) and Baguindan (in Tipo-Tipo),” Jakilan added.

“The barangay is draining in our resources and we are hoping there will be help for food and water for the evacuees,” he said. Some of the women are also grieving for their husbands and sons who were shot to death by the ASG.

On Thursday, the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) sent through Regional Social Welfare Secretary Rahima Datumanong-Alba 260 sacks of rice that were shared by more than 2.000 victims of war, including 169 families from Al-Barka.

Also on Thursday in Tipo-Tipo town, 20-year old Marida Lollong of Silangkung barangay, was happy that her family was among the recipients of 1/3 sack of rice from the ARMM Government.

“Pero kulang po ito, kasi anim kami, tapos pagkasyahin namin ito. Sana makabalik na kami agad sa bahay namin kasi mas mahirap dito (sa evacuation center) pero syempre, mas nakakatakot doon lalo na ngayon,” (But this is not enough because we’re six, but we’ll try to manage this. We hope we can return to our homes because it’s difficult here in the evacuation center but of course we know it’s more scary there now), she said. (Frencie Carreon/MindaNews)