Peace education pushed as antidote to extremism

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 30 July) — Apart from restoring the physical facilities and infrastructure lost in the siege of Marawi, a Maranao educator urged the country’s education officials to make the rebuilding effort an opportunity to revisit the education curriculum.

Dr. Nagasura T. Madale, a cultural anthropologist, said it is important to strengthen peace education and start it among the young to prevent, in the longer term, the growth of violent extremism especially in areas of the country vulnerable to inroads by Islamic State-linked militants.

“Educational institutions must teach the concept of peace and non-violence as an alternative option to resolve conflicts,” emphasized Madale, a retired professor at the Mindanao State University.

He cited as an instance that as a result of the Marawi siege, there is a need to “manage the relations between and among Maranaos, Maranaos and non-Maranaos, and Maranaos and the broader society.”

Interviewed Saturday in the sidelines of the International Conference on Marawi Post-Conflict Reconstruction here, Madale explained that the effort at fostering inter-cultural understanding among the various peoples of Mindanao and the rest of the country “must be boosted in order to increase our society’s collective capacity to address the phenomenon of extremism and radicalism.”

Madale’s proposal echoes the sentiments of the Bishops-Ulama Conference (BUC), a key institution for dialogue in Mindanao, and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, a retired soldier.

In a recent statement, the BUC and its dialogue partners said “peace education is one best antidote to violent extremism.”

“Rebuilding Marawi means restoring broken relationships among peoples and the key institutions for fostering inter- and intra-faith dialogue, and inter-cultural understanding,” the statement read.

“For us, rebuilding Marawi is about cultivating a society that embraces social, cultural, political and religious diversity… (and) a national community that is respectful of the aspirations of various peoples,” the statement further read.

“I believe in the need to rebuild relations,” Lorenzana said in his keynote address.

Bringing normalcy

In a message read for her, Education Secretary Leonor Magtolis Briones told conference participants that “more than just repairing and rebuilding classrooms,” the challenge for the Department of Education (DepEd) is “how we can bring back normalcy to our students’ lives.”

“Education must continue (as) education cannot wait,” Briones said.

Briones added that the agency is now in the thick of preparing for the eventual reopening of classes in war-torn Marawi “once the go ahead has been given.”

She is confident the agency’s ‘Adopt-A-School in Marawi’ initiative, students “are able to come to class with books, and pencils, and paper, and more than just a roof over their heads.”

DepEd assistant secretary Resvee Escobido said that as a result of the continued fighting, some 14 schools have sustained damages, all accounting for about 203 classrooms.

Total cost to rebuild these infrastructure and restore its related facilities is estimated to be P2.3 billion, Escobido added.

House support for rebuilding

Cagayan de Oro Rep. Maximo Rodriguez assured the conference participants, mostly coming from the Maranao civil society community, that the House leadership is committed to supporting the needs of Marawi’s reconstruction.

Rodriguez disclosed that part of the financial requirements for the effort will be contained in a supplemental budget being drawn at the House.

Apart from Rodriguez, some other current stalwarts of the so-called Mindanao bloc in the House attended the conference: Bukidnon Rep. Malou Acosta-Alba, Iligan City Rep. Frederick Siao, and Deputy House Speaker Ferdinand Hernandez of South Cotabato.

Rodriguez said the Mindanao bloc will ensure the funds for rebuilding are made available through the necessary legislative actions.

Lorenzana said the rebuilding effort may be “slow and painstaking” and might need more than P20 billion which is the budget committed by President Duterte, so far. (Ryan D. Rosauro / MindaNews)