By Francis Wakefield
About 100 student grantees of the College Education Assistance Project (CEAP) who underwent a training on peace formation in Koronadal City, South Cotabato, last December 1, 2018 have called for peace promotion through education.
The training was meant to equip young peacebuilders with knowledge, skills, and tools that they can share in building a culture of peace and nonviolence. It also serves as an opportunity for the youth to become peace champions in their respective communities and universities.
“Pinanganak ako sa giyera. Hindi nakakatulong ang conflict kasi maraming bata ang hindi nakakapag-aral dahil natatakot sila sa mga terorista. (I was born in war. Conflict does not help promote education because children are scared of the terrorists),” said 19-year-old Bailyn Nasa, a first-year college student residing in Barangay Tee in Datu Salibo, Maguindanao.
“Sabi ko mag-aaral ako nang mabuti para kahit papaano may maitulong ako sa lugar namin,” (I told myself that I will study well in order to contribute something to my community),” she added.
Education was also the same means that 24-year-old Abbie Usman, also a first year college student and a resident of Tukanalipao, Mamasapano, thought of when asked how he can contribute to peace promotion.
“Gagawa ako ng paraan para makapag-hikayat ng mga katulad ko na makapag-aral. Pero hindi ko kaya mag-isa — kailangan ko ng makakasama,” (I will make a way to encourage youth like me to pursue their education. But I cannot do this alone — I need help), Usman said.
Through this peace formation, students were assisted in mitigating the increase in their vulnerabilities to violent extremism and averting their exposure to criminal activities.
“Simula pagkabata ko, wala na akong naranasang peace sa amin. Matagal na ang isang linggo na walang putukan, (I never experienced peace in our community since I was young. The longest period with no gunfire was one week), Usman said as he highlighted the violence that occurs in his community.
In addition to CEAP’s peace promotion sessions, the students were also provided with transitional cash assistance to support their education.
In his opening remarks, Area Management Team Head Jake Misuari encouraged the students not just to listen during the training but also to actively participate and share their learnings to their peers afterward.
“Sikapin niyong isagawa ang lahat ng natutunan ninyo dito sa CEAP..Kahit isa lang na makakapag-bigay ng positive impact sa inyong buhay. At sana, makatulong ito para kayo ay maging youth peace champions (Do your best to apply what you learned in CEAP, even just one lesson that will have a positive impact on your lives. I hope this can help you become youth peace champions),” he said.
Nasa and Usman were just two of the 1,200 college students CEAP has assisted. They are also among the hundreds of thousands affected by armed conflict.
“Parang immune na kami sa giyera. Pero nangangarap pa rin ako na sana ‘yong lugar namin ay maging peaceful na. Kahit panandalian lang. O kahit pang-habang buhay na sana (I feel like we’re already immune to conflict. But I still hope that our community can be peaceful even just for a short time. Or hopefully for a lifetime),” Nasa said.
CEAP is an assistance project for underprivileged college students in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), with special consideration for those directly affected by the Marawi siege. (Francis T. Wakefield)