NGO, DepEd hope to eliminate illiteracy in ARMM by 2016

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COTABATO CITY, Philippines—A Bangladesh-inspired organization out to sow peace and development in poor and strife-torn communities vowed to resolve the illiteracy problem hounding the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao for decades.

“By 2016, we expect to have reduced, if not completely solved, the problem of a lack of basic education for children whose families have been displaced by the armed conflict, with the help of the Philippine Government’s education department,” said Nazrul Islam, country representative of the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC).

Founded in 1972, BRAC is a non-government organization currently at work in 10 developing countries, including ARMM in the Philippines.

Islam said that from being a “small relief and rehabilitation group,” BRAC’s 40 years of humanitarian mission has transformed to become “the largest and one of the most successful development organizations in the world.”

Funded by the Australian Government through its Agency for International Development, BRAC’s partnership with the Department of Education has introduced the launching in 2012 of the Alternative Delivery Model (ADM), a five-year project with a $30-million initial AusAID-funding for three years, under the Basic Education Assistance for Mindanao (BEAM-ARMM), said Ramon Bobier, project management consultant.

The project, according to Bobier, has established a total of 400 pre-school buildings in ARMM provinces, such as Maguindanao, 110; Lanao del Sur, 200; and Tawi-Tawi, 47.

“Some structures are under negotiation in time for the June school opening,” he said.

“The ADM approach is gaining headway because village officials in far-flung communities have the prerogative to choose native mentors that have to adopt with the DepEd-BEAM module of instruction,” Bobier said.

Islam said that by next year children of poor families in Basilan and Sulu would benefit from the project as BRAC would branch out to these occasionally troubled areas.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front, an armed insurgent group that has been working to strike a final peace deal with the Philippine government, has endorsed the literacy partnership program.

“We will see to it that the project succeeds by ensuring the peace and safety of school children and the community from saboteurs,” said Ghadzali Jaafar, MILF political affairs vice chair.

Bobier said the 2012-2013 school year would see the graduation of 12,000 kids in the region from the “catch-up approach of quality education that is attuned to existing culture and practices.”

In the scheduled BRAC’s first anniversary celebration in ARMM on Feb. 27, key government and foreign dignitaries are expected to grace the event, notably Bangladesh and Australian envoys to the Philippines – John Gomes and Bill Tweddell, respectively.

Even BRAC-founding chair Sir Fazle Hasan Abed is set to be welcomed by ARMM Acting Gov. Mujiv Hataman and Dep-Ed Regional Secretary Jamar Kulayan at the Shariff Kabunsuan Cultural Center here, the venue of the celebration.

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