Students orphaned or displaced by war graduate

ARAKAN, North Cotabato (MindaNews/31 March) —   Some 150 poor students, most of them Lumads and Moro from far-flung villages in Mindanao who were orphaned or displaced by war, completed basic education in a state-run institution here Friday.

Of the 145 graduates from elementary and secondary laboratory schools of the Cotabato Foundation College of Science and Technology (CFCST), 103 are considered “government wards and orphans”,  CFCST president Dr. Sam Molao said.

Records show the graduates came from the conflict-affected towns of Sultan sa Barongis, Buldon, and Buluan inMaguindanao; Wao in Lanao del Sur; South Cotabato; Bukidnon; and NorthCotabato, many of them abandoned by parents and relatives.

Molao said the scholars are housed in an orphanage founded in 1967 by Hadja Bai Fatima Plang Matalam, a Maguindanaon leader who was also an educator.

Sofia Molao, wife of the CFCST president and the manager of the orphanage named CFCST Custodial care Center,  said the students are given free tuition and miscellaneous, food, board and lodging, and school supplies.

The school receives from the national government some P10 million budget per schoolyear, 60 percent of which goes to the facility, Ms Molao said.

“The orphanage is the poor students’ refuge.   Here, being poor is not an issue.   The poor are assured of free schooling,” she said.

Religion is also a non-issue at the CFCST. “We don’t care if you’re a Muslim, a Christian, or a Protestant.  As long as you want to attend school, you are welcome here,” the college president  explained.

At around 8:30 a.m. last Friday, 70 pupils from elementary laboratory and 75 from secondary laboratory schools marched down the aisle at the school gym to receive their diplomas and medals. The theme of the commencement exercises is “Education: Catalyst of Peace, Economic and Social Transformation.”

Around 2,700 students were enrolled for school year 2011-2012.

Molao expects additional enrollees in June. (Malu Cadelina-Manar/MindaNews)