Schools for Peace project promotes valuable lessons in Philippines

09 Jan 2009

"Schools for Peace" is part of UNDP Philippines' Act for Peace Programme aimed at promoting such values to children in Mindanao’s conflict areas.
Philippines—Most know actor Robin Padilla as the former “Bad Boy” of Philippine cinema. But now many, particularly school children and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), see him as a “Peace Exemplar.”

Padilla is among other Peace Exemplars, or role models, who participate in UNDP Philippines’ Act for Peace Programme. As part of that programme is the “Schools for Peace” project, aimed at integrating peace principles, concepts and values in all subject areas of formal and non-formal education through enriched lesson plans and role models.  A School of Peace (SoP) is an elementary or secondary school in Mindanao’s conflict areas.

Earlier this month, Padilla and UNDP Country Director Renaud Meyer went to Datu Odin Sinsuat, Shariff Kabungsuan province, to visit IDPs staying in the evacuation centers.  Joined by Act for Peace Programme Manager Diosita Andot, and Governor Ibrahim Ibay of Shariff Kabungsuan, Padilla and Meyer led the launch of the Early Recovery Project, implemented by the UNDP’s Act for Peace Programme for IDPs.

They also launched Act projects in Mindanao. Among the projects were a children’s health and daycare center as well as bio-intensive gardening for the evacuees. Food and non-food items were given as direct assistance, and a rubber-tree nursery was set up.

As part of their trip, Meyer and Padilla joined a storytelling activity for Muslim and Christian students at the Broce Elementary School of Peace in Barangay Tamontaka, Datu Odin Sinsuat, one of 31 Schools of Peace supported by the Act for Peace Programme to promote quality, basic education grounded on the values of non-violence.

The activity was of particular significance to Padilla, who is a Muslim convert and appeals to his brother Muslims and Christians to work hand in hand. Lines of communication should always be open, Padilla said. “We should join hands. And I hope, we should have ball pens and paper, not guns,” he said.

To promote a culture of open-mindedness, Padilla read a story developed under the Big Books project of the Kids for Peace Foundation, Inc., of Cotabato City. The story, supported by the UNDP and the British Council, spoke of tolerance, goodwill, and friendship among Muslim and Ilocano children.

The children listened with rapt attention and applauded heartily after Padilla’s inspired reading. 

“Let us show our full support for the hope that UNDP and the Act for Peace Programme bring,” Padilla said.

Taking a step further to support the cause, Padilla decided to set up the Liwanag ng Kapayapaan (Light of Peace Foundation), a preparatory school that gives free education to mostly Moro children in Quezon City.

“As long as there are schools and daycare centers that are used as evacuation centers, the children’s knowledge will not improve,” said Padilla. “We’re talking here about a people’s future – especially that of the children. Everything we need to start anew is already here. We have no more reason not to achieve peace.”

The importance behind the Act for Peace Programme

Actor Robin Padilla is a role model for the project and together with UNDP Country Director Renaud Meyer has seen the launch of Act projects in Mindanao.
As defined by the United Nations, a Culture of Peace consists of values, attitudes, and forms of behavior that reject violence and prevent conflicts by going to their root causes. The endpoint is solving the problems of conflict through dialogue and negotiation among people, groups, and nations.

In an effort to transform communities and schools and provide better lives for their constituents and students, the UNDP will continue to assist the Peace and Development Communities and the Schools for Peace, Meyer said.

The Act for Peace Programme approaches the conflict-affected areas in two ways. It helps in capacity-building by giving assistance to the communities and their leaders. It also makes sure that those in areas affected, but not involved in the conflict, can live as normally as the other communities in the country.

The Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) government led by Governor Datu Zaldy Uy Ampatuan is the lead implementing agency for programs and projects in the region. The UNDP serves as the managing agency for the program and MEDCO serves as the overall implementing agency. The Act for Peace Programme supports 250 Peace and Development Communities all over Mindanao.

“After we acknowledge the situation, we make sure that the population suffers the least possible impact due to the ongoing conflict,” Meyer said. “Another important aspect of our role in dealing with the internally displaced persons is not to let them get addicted or dependent on assistance. We help them build and sustain their hope to go back to their homes and assist them towards recovery.”

Andot points out, though, that assistance has no deadline and does not end after the evacuees have already returned to their homes.

“We do not treat them as victims. We deal with them as people who have the right to plan for themselves and who can do something for themselves,” Andot said. “We also see to it that our recovery and livelihood programs will be vehicles for social cohesion, where everyone from different cultures, religions, and beliefs can work as one and in harmony.”

About the Big Books Project

The Big Books project of the Kids for Peace Foundation, Inc., of Cotabato City is supported by the UNDP and the British Council. The stories were written by core groups of children from Mindanao who interviewed their parents and elders. In the true tradition of communal ownership, the young and old weave stories that spring from their culture and community.

Among the stories are Bagong Golis [New Golis] of Dalingaoen, Pikit, North Cotabato; Pangadapen: Ang Kuwento ni Kandutan {Pangadapen: The Story of Kandutan] of Barira, Carmen, Cotabato; and Ang Balon [The Well] of Ranzo, Carmen, Cotabato.

Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) helped in the writing of two more stories.

In addition to the five stories, the young people have banded together and are now working on the following storybooks: the centuries-old Moro Watch Tower in Guinsiliban, Camiguin; the musical instruments of the Aromanen-Manobo, Matigsalug, and B’laan tribes; and on the Sheikh Makhdum mosque in Simunul, Tawi-tawi.

These stories introduce other children to the glories of their past and teaches them about their culture and history. Moreover, these stories also ask, if peace reigned before, why can we not have peace again now?