Sunday, January 21, 2018
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      Community facilitators, Amerah Mantawil and Isah Jane Mantawil, are still smiling after a long day of surveying the community to gather data on out-of-school children.


      Literacy is often an elusive dream for people living in conflict-affected areas. This is true for Bangsamoro families who lack access to basic education and social services for their children due to poverty. The situation is further worsened by the armed conflict in their areas.

      The Integrated Mindanaoans Association for Natives (IMAN), a non-government organization, is creating ways to continue providing access to education despite war and conflict. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), through the Philippine-American Fund, supports IMAN and its dedicated and hardworking team of community facilitators to improve the literacy, numeracy and essential life skills of Moro children in conflict-affected areas.

      Community facilitators bring basic education closer to children in conflict-affected areas who are not able to attend formal schools due to disruptions caused by the conflict. These facilitatorsare trained to teach these children how to read and write. Every week, around30 facilitators (six per barangay) are mobilized to visit communities and conduct one-day learning sessions. They also do one-on-one mentoring to children needing extra attention to improve their literacy skills.

      Their job requires energy, patience and persistence as they go door-to-door in search of out-of-school children and convince parents to enroll their children in IMAN’s literacy program.

      “It is not an easy job. In our area we sometimes have to travel as far as 40 kilometers to reach the communities. But it is our little way of helping our fellow Bangsamoro to be literate for their self-development” shares Amera Mantawil, a community facilitator in Barangay Pedtad, Kabacan, North Cotabato.

      To date, these community facilitators reached a total of 397 off-school children (41 percent girls) in five barangays. These represent 80 percent of IMAN’s target of 500 children in conflict-affected areas. With Phil-Am Fund support, a total of 202 children successfully completed the literacy program, and 37 are now enrolled in a formal school for the school year 2016-2017.

      Access to basic education brings hope for children who are affected by armed conflict. Community facilitators who conduct these off-site classes serve as a bridge to pave the way for students to catch up with their studies and eventually enroll in formal schools.