Teaching of Islamic values and Arabic in public schools helps build peace

Ustadz Ismael Samporna said the integration of Islamic studies in the curriculum for Muslims enrolled in public elementary schools did not only help improve the students’ capacities, “it has also improved the prospects of brighter peace and order in the community.”

Samporna, together with his wife Saripa Paniamba-an, both 40, teach Islamic values and Arabic language at the Malaybalay City Central School (MCSS) which has the highest student populace among the city’s public elementary schools.

Since June this year,  around 120 Maranao pupils have been attending the daily hour-long classes on Islamic values and Arabic. The classes are held from 4 to 5 p.m. in two classrooms.

The teaching of Islamic values and Arabic, earlier offered only in madaris (plural for madrasah or Islamic school) has been integrated into the mainstream educational system of the Philippines with the Department of Education's Order No. 51 series of 2004. The order mandates the teaching of Islamic Values and Arabic Language in public elementary schools with at least 30 Moro students..

Classes started in school year 2005-2006 in pilot schools in select areas in Mindanao. At least 1,000 classes were opened nationwide in schoolyear 2006-2007 in public schools with the minimum required number of students. 

Saripa said the students are coping with the lessons at an "understandable pace.”  But she said they have a problem with students missing classes due to activities scheduled during the 4 to 5 p.m. sessions.

Saripa recalled that when they started holding classes, the predominantly non-Moro teachers initially thought the program was intended to convert Christians into Muslims.
She said she had to go to each classroom to request the attendance of the Maranao pupils amid resistance from some teachers.

Also, another problem is the meager budget for the program. The Sampornas receive only P3,000 a month each not only because they have yet to take the licensure examination for teachers but also because the of the local school board’s lack of funds.

Saripa also said they still have no permanent room to hold the hour-long classes. Since June, they have been using the classroom of a Maranao teacher and another classroom but because they have no control over which available classrooms to use, their sessions are sometimes delayed and shortened.

But Saripa said she is “optimistic that from this point onwards, Islamic education here will improve.”

She said the problems encountered were merely a result of a lack of orientation of the teachers and officials in the school. The principal, she said, has pledged all-out support for the hour-long classes starting January 2007.

At the right time, she said, they will also organize the parents of the Maranao students so  they can help. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)