EDITORIAL: 3rd Quarter Issue of Empowering Voices
October 7, 2020

It has been six months since the new Corona Virus 2019 pandemic struck the country. It radically altered our way of life which negatively affected the most vulnerable sectors of our society in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

Mental health problems are also on the rise brought about by anxiety and stress over the future. Our economy has also been worse hit with the slowing down of consumer spending. The transition period that began in March 29, 2019 was significantly affected. There is marked slowing down of delivery of basic services like health, social service and even education.

The opening of school year was moved from August 5, 2020 to October 5, 2020 which also coincides with the end of our celebration of World Teacher’s Day. We recently had a contest on Best Practices by Teachers for learning continuity during Covid-19 pandemic, this is our way of recognizing the great contributions of our teachers to continue education.

In response to Resolution No. 260 on the Status of Continuity of Learning amidst Covid-19 pandemic that I filed last August 2020 and was adopted by the Parliament, Minister Mohagher Iqbal has reported that only 68% of learners or 626,253 from 915,339 enrollees (in the basic education sector and higher education sector, including private and public schools) have enrolled.

An estimated of 32% of learners will not have access to learning opportunities this S.Y. 2020-2021. Coupled with the dismal 80% of teachers in the Bangsamoro that are not ready to shift towards distance learning modalities and worrisome internet situation of at the household level, of only 4.5% access. There is a huge possibility that we are seeing high percentage of drop-outs and out of school children and youth in the Bangsamoro which will have negative “ripple effect” in the future.

Thus, there is a need during this pandemic to deploy massive resources and technological support to the education sector by the BARMM Government as well as legislations or policies from BTA Parliament in order to solve this situation.

A whole of government approach must be done from the Barangay level to the top most level of governance. The private sector can also be tapped to help solve this problem of internet connectivity. Our teachers must also be equipped and supported towards shifting their mindset to the new normal. The students and parents must also be given the support they need to succeed in this huge shift to home-based learning. It is our duty in the BTA during transition period to ensure that the welfare and well-being of students, parents, teachers and all stakeholders in education. The 32% percent school leavers has to be prevented. All efforts must be exerted for the 289,086 students to have access to learning. And we have to do it fast. The MBHTE cannot do it alone. We in the BTA and BARMM Cabinet must help in solving this looming education crisis.

A copy of the third issue of Empowering Voices can be downloaded in the ‘publication’ section in https://parliament.bangsamoro.gov.ph/. (RSolaiman, BTA Parliament)