ANGELES CITY, Philippines – Thousands of school children caught by war in Marawi City have fled to safer areas where they can continue their studies, and some have even reached as far as Ilocos Region, Central Luzon and parts of the Visayas where they have relatives to shelter them, Education Secretary Leonor Briones disclosed Monday.
Briones said children must be spared from conflict whatever their ethnic origin or religion is, or the places they originate from. “We are opening our doors for them, because children have nothing to do with the ideology.”
In a speech at the 119th Independence Day celebration held at the Old Pamintuan Mansion here, Briones said: “We are doing our best to contribute to normalization by opening our classes on time, opening our school doors to all children whatever they are, wherever they are, whatever the place they live in, because children have nothing to do with ideology, with all the struggles and the fighting that is going on. So we are admitting them and some of them even reached Central Luzon and as far as Batac in northern Luzon.”
Briones said a large number of school children have fled to Iligan City, more than 2,000 are in Cagayan de Oro and close to 1,000 primary and secondary students are now in Cebu to continue their studies there.
“Kahit saan sila galing tinatanggap natin sila, hindi sila kasali sa gulo na ito. Gusto natin na maski ano ang nangyayari sa iba’t ibang lugar ng ating bansa, patuloy ang pagturo, patuloy ang edukasyon [Everywhere they turn to we accept them; they are not part of this war. We want teaching and education to continue whatever is happening in some parts of the country],” Briones stressed.
Briones cited estimates that about 20,000 learners have been affected by the crisis in Marawi City. She said a school building was destroyed by heavy fighting between government security forces and Maute-ISIS extremists who laid siege to the once-bustling, Muslim-dominated city on May 23.
The DepEd chief lamented reports that two minors caught in the crossfire were killed.
DepEd has yet to assess the total damage in terms of government educational facilities, Briones said, but quickly gave assurances that the department has enough funds to restore school buildings damaged by the war.
The reconstruction and repair of destroyed school buildings will be handled by the Armed Forces Engineering unit, she said.
“We are yet allowed to enter Marawi City.We have no permission yet, but we do know that a school of the United Church of Christ of the Philippines was damaged by fighting. We have yet to tally the number of affected schools,” Briones told reporters, speaking partly in Filipino.