MARAWI CITY (MindaNews / 11 August) — Amid the sound — and sight — of air strikes against the Maute Group and its allies in the main battle area in downtown Marawi, students flocked to the Mindanao State University’s (MSU) main campus here on Friday, the last day of the extended enrolment period, as officials prepare for the opening of schoolyear 2017-2018 on August 22.
Before the war between government forces and the Maute Group started on May 23, the first semester in this 56-year old university was supposed to begin on August 7. The war entered Day 81 on Friday with students stopping at the golf course near the university library from where one can see OV-10 planes dropping bombs on the main battle area five kilometers away.
MSU President Dr. Habib Macaayong told MindaNews on August 5 that they were extending enrolment for another week and expect to open by August 14.
But Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez, chief of the Western Mindanao Command told MindaNews August 14 would be too soon, citing security threats that they need to address.
He said August 22 would be more feasible (August 21, a Monday, is Ninoy Aquino Day, a special non-working holiday).
Galvez on Friday told MindaNews classes in MSU will begin on August 22.
Officials from the university and the government’s security sector met on Monday to discuss security preparations.
A press release from the WestMincom’s Command Public Information Office quoted Galvez as saying that opening the university given the still ongoing challenges posed by terrorist groups in the downtown area is a challenge, “but we have to test the waters and come up with means to bring back the life of Marawi through the opening of this revered institution.”
“The Mindanao State University is the symbol and life of Marawi City. This is the bastion of knowledge and we will have to open classes the soonest,” he said.
A “Brigada Eskwela” or campus clean up drive involving MSU constituents, representatives of the local government and the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police will be held next week in preparation for the school opening, Col. Romeo Brawner, Deputy Commander of the Joint Task Group Ranao told MindaNews on Friday.
The MSU main campus during the last schoolyear had a student population of 17,000, Macaayong told MindaNews in an interview early last month.
College student population last semester was 12,000, according to Dr. Alma Berowa, VP for Academic Affairs of the MSU System. Of this number, 2,210 graduated last month.
“With no freshmen and sophomores coming in as new students due to K to 12, that leaves us with around 10,000. If we will reach 80 percent (enrolees), that would be amazing,” she told MindaNews.
MSU alumni have been actively campaigning for students to return to the main campus, even offering free tee-shirts, initially for the first 100, increasing it later to the first 300 enrolees.
Ronald Silvosa, Information Technology Officer and head of the Information Systems Department of the College of Information and Technology told MindaNews that as of 5 p.m. Friday, they had a total of 8,697 enrolees, 7,523 of whom have confirmed.
The remaining 1,174 students “enroled or were enroled by their respective department academic adviser during the enrolment period which began last July 31 in three venues, namely online or via the internet using their student account, MSU main campus in Marawi and the College of Medicine at Pala-o in Iligan City.”
ARMM Assemblyman Zia Alonto Adiong, spokesperson of the Provincial Crisis Management Committee and a member of the MSU’s Board Regents appealed to university and military officials present during the conference last Monday to use a holistic approach since there are people living within the school compound who are neither school staff nor students.
Adiong cited the need to consult and involve other members of the MSU community so that they know the problem and can take part in the solution.
At the end of the meeting, the officials agreed to craft a security plan involving everyone who has a stake over the MSU operations.
MSU, Adiong told MindaNews, is “a part of our lives. If you lockdown MSU, you might as well drain the lake. If Lake Lanao is the source of our identity, MSU gives meaning to our lives.”
MSU, according to its website, has a peace building mandate, “with most of its campuses located in conflict- affected areas in Mindanao.”
The entire MSU system– composed of the main campus here, MSU-IIT in Iligan, MSU-Tawi-Tawi College of Technology and Oceanography in Bongao, Tawi-tawi; in Naawan, Misamis Oriental, General Santos City, Dinaig in Maguindanao, and Buug in Zamboanga Sibugay and its three satellite campuses in Lanao del Norte — had 78,000 students as of schoolyear 2016 – 2017, said Macaayong.
MSU campuses, the website said, “are expected to compete with MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front), MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front) and ASG (Abu Sayyaf Group) camps in attracting young Muslims.”
The university, it added, is “an affirmative action policy instrument for the multiculturalist integration of the Muslims and other cultural minorities into the mainstream of national life.”
From University of Mindanao to MSU
MSU was established on September 1, 1961. The law creating it was amended several times. Passed in 1955, RA 1387 created the University of Mindanao in what was then refered to as Dansalan City.
In 1957, the law was amended by RA 1893 to include a preamble that there is a need to accelerate the program of education “among the peoples of the south, particularly the Muslims and other cultural minorities.”
It said a more extensive professional and technical training and instruction in Literature, Philosophy, Sciences and Arts, “particularly the Native Culture, Literature, Philosophy and Sciences and a more extensive research of the above, especially those relating to Filipino Culture, Literature, Philosophy, Sciences and Arts, become necessary to implement the policy of the Government in its desire to integrate the National Minorities into our body politic.”
Its original name under RA 1387 was University of Mindanao but this was renamed by RA 3791 in 1963 to Mindanao State University (MSU). It is not clear why the name was changed.
On December 21, 1966, three years after RA 3791 was passed renaming the university to MSU, the Mindanao Colleges, a private non-sectarian school which was established in July 1946, with main campus in Davao City, was given its charter as the University of Mindanao, Inc. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)