CAMP DARAPANAN, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao -- The level of education of a people is directly proportional to the growth potentials of a region, especially development that aspires to benefit generations to come. With the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) just about ready to sign a peace agreement with the government of the Philippines, MILF chair Al-Haj Murad Ebrahim is most concerned, especially because of what he deems as the poor standard of education being churned out by private schools run by Muslims in Bangsamoro areas.
“In our jihad, we should recognize the reality that merely singing an agreement is not the ultimate end of our struggle. We will only be in another level of struggle. What we signed will not benefit us if we cannot manage it effectively to our benefit,” he said during the launching of the National Association of Bangsamoro Education Inc. (Nabei) held at the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s Camp Darapanan in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao last March 9, with no less that MILF central committee chair Al-Haj Murad Ebrahim as the guest of honor and main speaker.
With the formation of Nabei, Muslim private schools are now represented in the coordinating council of the Private Educational Association (Cocopea).
The group who gathered at Camp Darapanan from all over Mindanao were made to look at the realities of Muslim-ran schools as assessed by no other than a person who is one of them and whom they hold in high respect.
“We cannot effectively mold our aspirations unless education becomes one of our foundations,” he said. “There is no other way for you to succeed as a people and occupy a place of respect and acknowledgment unless you are able to develop your education and educational system,” he said to the big group of educators and administrators from the different private Muslim schools.
The sharp sting of his speech already gave a hint at the very start when he said that an association of Muslim-ran schools such as Nabei should have been created a long time ago and not just recently.
“We know that education and education institutions are very important components in our struggle. At any rate, it’s not too late,” he said soon after acknowledging the officers and members.
Teachers at the frontline of Jihad
What the MILF combatants have invested in with life, blood, and sweat through the long decades they have fought to find a workable peace agreement, Murad said, should now be replaced with investments in knowledge, skills, and capabilities.
“Our struggle is not finished. We are elevated to another struggle that is more difficult. Maaring ‘di na natin kailangan ang armas sa laban na ito. Ang armalite natin ay yung knowledge na nasa inyo. The difficult path is now passed from freedom fighters to the educators, kayo (educators) ngayon ang nasa frontline,” he said.
Murad rapped at the seeming focus to get titles, even the proliferation of Bangsamoro people who have the titles of doctors, without corresponding grasp of knowledge on whatever the doctorate is about. Much like saying, never mind the specialization just give me the title.
This should not be allowed to continue if the Bangsamoro people want the peace and better life they have long been aspiring for. Real development and peace can only be achieved with real and relevant knowledge.
“Kayo (Educators) ang mag-mold ng mga fighters ngayong iba na ang combat. Ang combat natin ngayon is knowledge. The struggle is not over, we are only transferred from one level to another,” he said.
No true identity
Murad bewailed the fact that even as there are many Muslim-operated schools, all these do not help enhance nor build a Bangsamoro identity.
“If the management of a certain school graduated in Cairo, he implements the system learned in Cairo, when from Saudi, the same thing happens,” he said.
What is perpetrated then is a mix of teachings that do not even fit nor enhance the culture and norms of the Bangsamoro. What is inherent in the Bangsamoro is forgotten while foreign cultures and teachings are imbibed without proper assimilation.
Worst, when taken all together, Muslim-ran schools do not generate the same respect as private schools ran by Catholics, and this to him is a parody that every Muslim in the Philippines should recognize and do something about. Even his own grandson is ashamed of being seen in his school uniform outside school, he said, because the boy said, he does not want to let people outside of his school know that he goes to that school.
“Ang ibig sabihin noon, very low ang pagtingin sa eskwelahan, and I analyzed na hindi lang sa eskwelahan niya yun, but mostly sa lahat ng Muslim-ran schools ganun ang nangyayari,” he said.
Titles not knowledge
He attributes this to the warped priorities that their private institutions hold – most of the time, schools are looked at as businesses whose primary objective is to earn for its owners, thus the greater desire to churn out as many diplomas because there is a big demand for diplomas.
“Kahit na limampu lang ang estudyante ko, okay na, basta meron akong eskwelahan,” he said of the prevailing thinking among those who run private institutions in the Bangsamoro.
As a result, he said, “If you are a graduate of a school managed by Bangsamoro, you can’t compete with students of Ateneo, Notre Dame, and other Catholic Schools.”
The cycle of low standard is perpetrated by the type of students such schools attract: students who do not have interest in education and are just there for the diploma.
“Ang hindi interesado mag-aral, pupunta sa eskwelahan natin kasi sabi niya, sige lang, hindi ko naman kailangan talaga pumasok sa eskwela. Hindi rin pwede mag-strict ng standard kasi mababawasan ang mag-enrol sa atin. Kaya ang students na malaki ang potential, doon nag-aaral sa Catholic schools,” Murad said.
This does not bode well for a people who are now looking forward to achieving peace and governing their own people toward real development.
He also rapped the tendency of many to refuse to till the soil just because he has already achieved a certain level of education.
Even the madrasah system only manages to espouse Islam spirituality, but not develop Muslims as a person.
“Even the ustadzes, one side educated,” he said. “They cannot be an instrument for Islam to be a way of life kasi one side lang. Thus, the products instead of becoming instruments to build society nagiging burdens of society.”
Even the ustadzes of these madrasahs were not spared from Murad’s keen observations, chiding those who no longer want to till the soil after becoming ustadzes.
“Maghintay na lang ng salakkat, mag-attend ng Kanduli,” he said, “what will happen to the next generation if ganito an gating mga guro.”
He reminded his audience that a true Muslim is that who works for both the world and hereafter. Focusing only on the spirituality without doing one’s role in the worldly life is not a trait of a good Muslim.
“You should work for your hereafter as if you will die tomorrow, and work for your worldly self as if you will not die forever,” he reminded.