Islamic schools in Mindanao want gov’t recognition–study

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/23 August) — Majority of madaris, or private Islamic schools, in the Bangsamoro region and adjacent areas want government recognition to get needed support, a study conducted by a Mindanao think tank showed.

Citing results of the study titled “Research on Traditional Madaris in ARMM and Adjacent Regions,” Benedicto Bacani, executive director of the Cotabato City-based Institute for Autonomy and Governance (IAG), said that most madaris are struggling with their operations due to limited resources and are hoping for government interventions.

ARMM stands for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, which has been replaced by the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) in February.

The study was launched in Manila on Thursday, August 22.

Bacani noted that the madrasah system is not getting the support it deserves from the government due to the principle of separation of the church and the state.

Madaris (singular: madrasah) generally refers to Muslim private schools with core emphasis on Islamic studies and Arabic literacy.

Currently, there are four types of programs offered by madaris: the Arabic Language and Islamic Values Education (ALIVE) for Filipino Muslim learners enrolled in the public schools nationwide; private madaris recognized by the Department of Education; Tahderriyah or kindergarten schools established in MILF communities with the UNICEF-BEAM Program for 3-5 years old children, and the traditional madaris that are operating outside the Philippine educational system.

“Traditional madaris are the most important educational institutions in Muslim Mindanao since they are looked up to not only as schools of learning but also as symbols of Islam,” the study stressed.

For the Moro people, they are the proper place to learn Islamic teachings and study Arabic language, it added.

From June 2018 until the second half of 2019, the IAG surveyed 1,850 heads of traditional madaris as part of the study conducted with the assistance of the Australian government.

Results of the study showed that 90 percent of those surveyed are interested in government recognition, eight percent are unsure, while only two percent shunned the idea altogether.

The study stressed that many of the madaris have no permit to operate and lack recognition by the government or any accrediting body in the Philippines. They depend primarily on the spirit of volunteerism, sustaining their existence through contributions by parents of their students and donations from the community.

Majority of the madaris aspire for government recognition because of the technical or financial support they can get from the state, the study pointed out.

Government recognition, according to the study, is also seen as a necessary measure to correct misperceptions that madaris have become hubs of recruitment for terrorists or are producing graduates joining violent extremist groups.

Respondents believed that most of the traditional madaris are vulnerable to extremism because of the absence of government system regulations and their dependence on third-party funding from Islamic countries. The latter has led to the perception that madrasah education is a breeding ground of extremism, an issue that developed as a consequence of the Marawi siege in 2017.

Among the government agencies that could provide recognition to traditional madaris are the National Council for Muslim Filipinos (NCMF); Bureau of Muslim Education in ARMM and Department of Education, as integrated madrasah; Technical Education and Skills Development Authority for the vocational and technical courses; and Commission on Higher Education for collegiate courses.

The study urged the passage of a law that will help the traditional madrasah grow and develop as an educational system suited to the needs of the Moro and Muslims in the Philippines. (Bong S. Sarmiento/MindaNews)