MONKAYO, Davao de Oro — Who would have thought that a former war zone could be transformed into a learning classroom?
You could just imagine its impact on the students where they can expand their learning horizons and will be able to enrich their knowledge to be more relevant to the community.
The impossible became possible as the Philippine Army's 25th Infantry "Fireball" Battalion recently launched its Civil-Military flagship project dubbed "KM Learning" at Bukal Elementary School (ES) in Nabunturan, Davao de Oro, on September 18, 2023.
With the theme, "Katropa Mobile Learning Experiences About Raising Nurturing and Inspiring Nationalism and Patriotism in Geographically Isolated and Disadvantaged Areas," the project aims to inspire children in remote communities that used to be lairs of communist terrorist groups in 25IB's area of operations in Davao de Oro through creative and enriching learning activities for Kinder to Grade 2 levels, showcasing the innovative efforts of dedicated Fireball Troopers as soldier-teachers for peace.
Lt. Col. Michael T. Aquino, the 25IB commanding officer, said they initiated the community flagship program as a shining example of their commitment to not only protecting the communities but also enhancing the learning experiences of children in remote areas.
“We endeavor to encourage children to enjoy learning while fostering determination and perseverance to fulfill their dreams. While presenting soldiers as agents of peace, it uplifts our hearts to see the priceless reactions of parents, teachers, and children,” he said, adding that, the engagement ensures a long-lasting impact on the next generation toward peace-loving communities and a better society.
Since its launching, KM Learning has already reached more than 1,000 pupils in various schools in far-flung barangays of this province, most of them former New People’s Army bases - Pagsabangan ES, Manurigao Integrated School and Uduan ES in Manurigao in New Bataan; Madrasah School in Maco; Boringot ES and Piasusuhan ES in Napnapan in Pantukan.
Soldiers initiated a creative transformation of Army KM trucks to colorful mobile classrooms, incorporating peace education and innovative pedagogy on the war trucks that were previously utilized in combat operations.
Adhering to the Department of Education's (DepEd) learning standards, the project intends to provide engaging activities beyond the classroom while strictly following protocols to avoid interfering with established schedules.
"25IB KM Learning Project transcends the usual Army functions. It is an ambassador of peace and goodwill to the communities," Aquino added.
Apart from the learning classrooms, two mascots - "Ate Kaye" and "Kuya Em," dressed in Army uniforms, also provided encouragement in-class sessions as they serve as engaging visual aids that captivate pupils' attention and enhance their learning experience.
The mascots create a sense of excitement and curiosity among the pupils and promote an interactive and dynamic educational atmosphere.
They facilitate social-emotional learning by encouraging collaboration, empathy, and positive behavior among pupils.
"Ate Kaye" and "Kuya Em" serve as inspiring companions for pupils, instilling a sense of comfort and security that allows them to embrace challenges with confidence.
"I congratulate 25IB for this initiative because we honestly believe that the Armed Forces of the Philippines plays an important role in nation-building. By heart, I appreciate this kind of activity because of my belief that education plays a pivotal role in nation-building, and it is crucial to adopt innovative approaches to ensure children receive the best possible learning experiences. We promote the sustainment operations that we are doing in the province," said 1001 Brigade commander BGen. Felix Ronnie B. Babac.
At the Madrasah school in Maco town, soldier teachers warmly connected with Muslim pupils, effectively bridging cultural differences.
Sharl Jane Libarios, officer-in-charge (OIC) of Uduan ES and a former Salugpungan school operated by the CPP-NPA, said she is very thankful that the KM Learning project reached their school.
“I saw this initiative on social media and only wished it could be in our school," Libarios added.
Wiljhun Mabanding, the OIC of the Manurigao Integrated School, said it is the first time their pupils experienced such a creative way of class instruction.
Meanwhile, New Bataan Mayor Geraldford Balbin expressed his gratitude to the 25IB for the initiative, describing that the children were having a lot of fun while learning.
“This Innovative classroom instruction enhances student engagement and promotes appreciation of our soldiers' efforts. Our soldier-teachers and mascots captivate the pupils' attention and create an enjoyable learning experience,” he added.
Balbin is also hopeful that the initiative can help more remote barangays in the far-flung area.
The KM Learning Project is scheduled for elementary schools in remote areas all over Davao de Oro.
"This project will be expanded to more schools, reaching a wider range of children and communities. By scaling up our efforts, we hope to make a meaningful difference in the lives of even more children. Together with the Department of Education and Local Government Units, we can create a brighter future for our children," 1Lt. Lorraine L. Lazo, 25IB CMO officer, said.
On the other hand, Lorna Lui Go, chairperson of Kiwanis Children's Fun of Kiwanis International facilitated the distribution of school supplies for the pupils in Manurigao, New Bataan during the launching.
Kiwanis also provided champorado and ice cream for the children.
"We, from the DepEd, are very grateful for this initiative of the Philippine Army. While we have different mandates from the government, we serve the same people in the community," said DepEd Davao de Oro School Division Education Program Supervisor Dr. Andy Cabodoc. PR