Regular students in the classrooms, ‘bakwit’ students in tents

PANTAR, Lanao del Norte (MindaNews / 12 July) —  At the Pantar Central Elementary School here, one can easily tell who among the children are regular students and who are the displaced learners or the “bakwit” (evacuee) students from Marawi City: the former proceed to classrooms equipped with chairs, desks and a blackboard. some with shoe racks outside the door,  while the latter go to their tent classrooms, sit on tarpaulin mat and pray it will not rain or the tent will be flooded.

The tarpaulin mat in this tent classroom for Grade 4 and 5 ‘bakwit’ students at the Pantar Central Elementary School  in Pantar, Lanao del Norte on 11 July 2017 also serves as “desk.” MIndaNews photo by CAROLYN O. ARGUILLAS

Four tents have been installed in the school compound, fronting the classrooms for regular students: two from Unicef and two from Save the Children.

Except for Grade 6 students who get to sit on yellow plastic chairs and share three tables borrowed from the Principal’s Office, ‘bakwit’ students from Kinder to Grade 5 sit or sometimes lie prone on the tarpaulin that doubles as the students’ “desk.”

Grade 6 students do not share their tent classroom with another grade level.  The rest do: Kinder and Grade 1 together inside the white Unicef tent classroom;  Grades 2 and 3 in another; Grades 4 and 5 in a Save the Children tent, Grade 6 in the other.

Grade 6 ‘bakwit’ students get to sit down and share three tables inside a tent classroom at the Pantar Central Elementary School  in Pantar, Lanao del Norte on 11 July 2017. Only the Grade 6 students have chairs and tables and they do not share the tent classroom with other grade levels. MindaNews photo by CAROLYN O. ARGUILLAS

The school has 881 regular students and 644 ‘bakwit’ students. “And counting,” said teacher Jahara Macaraya. “Every day, we accept enrollees,” she said.

Macaraya told MindaNews on Tuesday that five more ‘bakwits,’ enroled, bringing to 644 the number of ‘bakwit’ students from Marawi. Pantar is the last town in Lanao del Norte at the boundary with Saguiaran, Lanao del Sur. Marawi City is after Saguiaran town.

Before the five enroled, the ‘bakwit’ student population was 639: 124 in Kinder, 108 in Grade 1, 92 in Grade 2, 73 in Grade 3, 93 in Grade 4, 89 in Grade 5 and 64 in Grade 6.

Aside from lack of chairs, desks, blackboards are also a problem. Only Grade 6 and combination classes Grades 4 and 5, have borrowed blackboards.

Teachers of the other combination classes hope they can have blackboards and chalks. Teacher Norhata Serad, a resident of Barangay Banggolo in Marawi City and herself a ‘bakwit,’ showed MindaNews a manila paper containing her lecture. “Walang blackboard.”

No blackboard? Use manila paper, as teacher Norhata Serad does in teaching Grade 2 ‘bakwit’ students in one of the tent classrooms at the Pantar Central Elementary School in Campong, Pantar, Lanao del Norte on 11 July 2017.  MindaNews photo by CAROLYN O. ARGUILLAS

The tents get flooded when it rains and it has been raining heavily in the area for days now.

Serad said sometimes they can’t hold classes when it rains heavily in the evening.

Add to these problems the fact that tent classrooms are “mainit’ (warm) and  ‘bakwit’ students are used to Marawi’s cool weather.

The ‘bakwit’ students reside temporarily in an evacuation center just outside the school, at the covered court and madrasah or with relatives nearby. A tent city is being set up on a lot across the highway.

Public school teachers displaced by the fighting in Marawi are supposed to report to work by teaching in the evacuation centers near them.  But not everyone has reported to work. There were supposed to be 11 ‘bakwit’ teachers who would teach in the school, but only around five have reported to work. The teachers of  Grades 4 to 6 when MindaNews visiited on Tuesday, were not ‘bakwit’ teachers.

Inside a tent classroom for Grades 4 and 5 ‘bakwit’ students from Marawi City at the Pantar Central Elementary School in Pantar, Lanao del Norte on 11 July 2017. MindaNews photo by CAROLYN O. ARGUILLAS

As of 7 p.m. on July 11, the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s Disaster Response Operations Monitoring and Information (DSWD DROMIC) Report No. 62 said a total of 101,086 families or 471,411 persons have been displaced by the armed conflict in Marawi City, from all 96 barangays of the city and  from 20 other municipalities of Lanao del Sur and two municipalities of Lanao del Norte (Kolambungan and Sultan Naga Dimaporo / Karomatan).

Eighty seven evacuation centers are still open, housing 4,278 families or 23,380 persons. The rest are home-based or those living with their relativs.

A total of 22,222 children were enrolled in public elementary, high school and senior high school in schoolyear 2016-2017, records from the Department of Education’s Marawi Division said.

Before the clashes between government forces and the Maute Group began on May 23,  the Division’s records show the city had 73 public schools and 45 private schools.

Two of four tent classrooms at the Pantar Central Elementary School in Pantar, Lanao del Norte on 11 July 2017. The left tent is for Grade 6 ‘bakwit’ students from Marawi City while the right tent is for Grades 4 and 5. MindaNews photo by CAROLYN O. ARGUILLAS

Of the 73 public schools in Marawi City,  records show 61 are elementary schools, eight are secondary schools and four are senior high schools.

How many of these schools have been destroyed during the fighting or by aerial bombing can be determined only when the areas have been cleared.

Assemblyman Zia Alonto Adiong, spokesperson of the Provincial Crisis Management Commitee reported on June 12 a partial list showing seven schools  reported to have been damaged: Raya Madaya 1 Elementary School and Raya Madaya 2 Pilot School were burned; Dansalan Primary School is “partially damaged,”Banggolo Elementary School is “damaged,” Marawi Central Elementary Pilot School was “bombed / partially damaged,” Mamintal Disomangcop Central Elementary School was “damaged/bombed” and Mambuay Elementary School was “bombed.”

The  DepEd Marawi Division has been tracking down where the Marawi students have gone. Some have been tracked down in neighboring towns in Lanao del Sur and Lanao del Norte as well as neighboring Misamis Oriental, but others have been monitored to be in other parts of Mindanao, Visayas and Luzon.  (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)