Reading, Writing, Walking
Friday, November 23, 2007
Knowledge Channel in No Man's Land

“No man’s land and where no one dared to tread” is how the school superintendent described Midsayap, North Cotabato last Nov 9 during the turnover ceremony of Knowledge Channel Foundation Inc.’s (KCFI) eTV facilities to San Isidro Elementary School. This is the 150th school or the final installation of KCFI’s 3-year USAID-assisted program called Television Education for the Advancement of Muslim Mindanao or TEAM-Mindanao for short. Some 78,529 students or so located in the most remote and isolated areas of Mindanao are now getting the quality education they rightfully deserve.

I am quite sad thoug that the project has ended. I heard that USAID did not include KCFI in its Phase Two leg.

I’ve been to the remote remotest towns in Mindanao because of TEAM-M; particularly in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) which is traditionally known as the most volatile area in the country. ARMM was created in 1990 and covers Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan and Marawi City. It is predominantly Muslim and unfortunately, the most imporverished region in the country, .

Despite its notoriety, I find ARMM quite peaceful its people generous and in fact, I must say ‘corrupton-free’. I braved traversing the region’s end-to-end five times even at night. Compared to Luzon, the roads are well paved and well maintained with concrete bridges connecting the rivers. The drive is quite pleasant although the military checkpoints every few kilometers can be quite intimidating.. But the view is something else - -lush green countryside, rolling mountain range, the colorful garb of the various townsfolk, the fruit stands….

I'm filled with nostalgia with this project ending. My first visit was in the very first installation in Paglas, Maguindanao three years ago, where Datu Toto Paglas and his sister Bai Nora hosted us in their family’s banana plantation (called La Frutera Banana Plantation, a 1,100 hectare farm of which Cavendish bananas are exported under the Chiquita, Unifrutti, Consol and Chico brands). Then to the Southernmost tip of the Philipines, Tawi Tawi on November 2005 where we had no choice but to take the navy boat accompanied by the marines to Languyan Island and from there be ferried by the only vehicle on the island (a dump truck) to the site.. And last week to witness the last installation in Cotabato.

Aside from providing 150 schools with ETV (11 of which are high schools), the TEAM-M project produced "Salam" a 10-video peace education module and also "Negosyo Ko, Asenso ko" a 10-video livelihood module for out-of-school youths. It has improved teaching and learning capacities especially in the areas of Math, Science and English. I just hope that USAID's Phase Two can dare go to the other remote areas and cover more schools in the region.

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