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Australia’s alternative education model helps bring education opportunities to Bangsamoro children

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For Akida Akmalon, growing up without a local school motivated her to become a teacher.

“When I was young, I had to walk eight kilometres before I could take a tricycle ride to school for another three kilometres,” she recalls.

“I experienced the challenges of living in an area without a school. That’s why I wanted to help my community and be part of the solution.”

Across the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), there are significant gaps in school participation and learning achievement compared to other parts of the Philippines. Around one in ten barangays are without any school, affecting an estimated 45,000 school-age children.

Gaps in education delivery in the BARMM are the result of many factors, including ongoing conflict, geographical remoteness, and social exclusion, particularly for marginalised Indigenous Peoples.

To meet the needs of these students and those at risk of dropping out of school, Australia has worked with the BARMM Government to offer alternative education models delivered by local learning facilitators like Akida. The approach is designed to be flexible, using a range of different teaching methods to suit diverse learner needs.

Australia has supported education in the Philippines, particularly Mindanao, for over 30 years. Partnering with the Department of Education and Bangsamoro Ministry of Basic, Higher and Technical Education, Australia has established around 1,200 community learning centres and trained facilitators in some of the most remote and poorest communities of the BARMM.

Akida is one of the 93 learning facilitators being mentored as part of the new Australia-supported program that is expanding education access to more than 3,500 marginalised children across the BARMM.

In solidarity with her community, Akida has been teaching a group of kindergarten to Grade 6 children at Calang Kapisahan Learning Centre for more than seven years now.

“Our community is remote, and the nearest school is six kilometres away. Children need to walk that distance to attend school. Seeing them reminds me of my own childhood,” she explains.

“My greatest joy in life as a teacher is seeing my pupils every day. It gives me hope. I can see their eagerness to learn, despite the weather or whatever challenges they have in their homes. They want to come to school and they show up.”

Now focused on supporting education continuity during the COVID-19 pandemic, she is now guiding students in their homes, especially since “many parents in her community are illiterate”.

“If the kids cannot go to school, I will bring learning to them. I will adjust to ensure they continue learning.”

Akida believes that education will help shape the future of the newly formed autonomous region through ‘bayanihan’.

“Teachers can contribute to the next generation of Bangsamoro people, by helping them become more literate and responsible, so they become good citizens of the Bangsamoro and the country,” she says proudly.

“My dream for them is to finish their education. Most families in our community rely on fishing as their main livelihood, barely meeting their needs. I hope they can help their families someday. Maybe they would also want to become a teacher and mould the ones that come after them.”

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