#MateshipAndBayanihan amid COVID-19: Working together to support education for children in Bangsamoro – Philippines
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to strain nations around the world. Economies, jobs, education and the health system remain disrupted. Vulnerable sectors, especially those in developing countries like the Philippines, are more deeply rooted in poverty. Earlier this year, it was reported that the Philippines had suffered its worst economic contraction since World War II with gross domestic product growth of 9.5% at the end of 2020.. The country’s total debt stock also climbed 3.5% month-over-month to 10.77 billion pesos.
The dire situation has helped strengthen alliances as nations recovering from the pandemic provide support to struggling nations. A friend who came to the Philippines’ immediate aid is its neighbor in Southeast Asia and the Indo-Pacific, Australia.
Australia and the Philippines are celebrating 75 years of diplomatic relations this year since the establishment of the Australian Consulate General in Manila. Over the decades, Australia has been a long-standing partner of the Philippines in addressing its development challenges in the areas of basic education, training and human resource development, public financial management, health, rural and community development, governance and assistance to vulnerable groups. , infrastructure and support for the Mindanao peace and development process.
Commitment to development, commitment to Mindanao
Based on the latest data, Bangsamoro is home to some of the poorest and most vulnerable communities in the country due to the confluence of man-made and natural disasters. The region still lags behind others in the country despite the progress made under the new self-government. The incidence of poverty among families, for example, remains at 53.6%. Basic or simple literacy stands at 86.1%, well below the national average of 96.5%.
Australia’s development cooperation program in the Philippines therefore focuses on Mindanao, particularly in Bangsamoro: supporting basic education reform, peace and stability, and inclusive economic growth.
Past initiatives include the Basic Education Assistance Program in Mindanao from 2002 to 2009; the Philippines ‘response to the Indigenous and Muslim Peoples’ Education Program (PRIME) in 2011-2014; and the Basic Education Assistance Program for Muslims in Mindanao (BEAM-ARMM) in 2012-2017.
Partnership with Save the Children against COVID-19
With support from Australia, Save the Children Philippines implemented BARMM’s Access for Children to Quality Alternative Learning in Safe Spaces project as part of the Education Pathways to Peace in Mindanao program.
The project is a direct response to the call of the Bangsamoro Ministry of Basic, Higher and Technical Education for a more consolidated and coordinated effort to meet the emerging needs of children for quality education. It aims to protect the right of every child to learn amid the COVID-19 pandemic through alternative education and distance learning opportunities.
The COVID-19-adaptive project aims to reach 90 schools in BARMM’s nine school divisions using age-appropriate, gender-sensitive, inclusive, COVID and culturally sensitive learning modalities. Direct beneficiaries include at least 14,400 children, 4,000 adults, 450 school staff and 100 partner institutions. The estimated indirect beneficiaries, through information, education and communication materials offline and online, are approximately 362,000 children and adults.
Operationally, the project focuses on the development and distribution of learning materials for students and educational kits for teachers and parents, as well as on improving the capacities of teachers, parents and others. caregivers in providing alternative learning during the pandemic. To protect learners and education staff from COVID-19, the project also distributed hygiene and sustainability kits to schools.
The project undertakes awareness campaigns related to children’s rights and protection, mental health and psychosocial support and psychological first aid. It is in response to realities on the ground that the COVID-19 pandemic is not only causing health risks for learners, but also harming their physical and mental well-being.
“We cannot afford to lose children in this pandemic. In addition to making sure they stay healthy and free from COVID-19, we also need to do our best to ensure that they continue to learn in a safe place – physically, mentally and psychosocial, ”Muyot added.
“Our work does not end when the pandemic is over. We will not stop until all children, regardless of race, religion, gender and status in life, are educated, safe, protected and have recovered from this pandemic. We look forward to our continued and successful partnership with Australia to turn this aspiration into reality. “