This morning I received an invitation from the president of the National Association for Bangsamoro Education, Inc. (NABEI) for their official Launching Program on March 9, 2014 (7:30am-2:00pm) at the MILF Administrative Headquarters, Camp Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao. According to Dr. Ombra Imam, president of NABEI, “our group had a courtesy meeting with MILF Central Committee Chair Al-Haj Murad Ebrahim on February 17, in the said meeting he encouraged NABEI to reach out to all existing Muslim private schools and madaris”. He also added that, “although NABEI has already invited a significant number of schools particularly in ARMM, the launching program will serve as a great opportunity to invite other schools, local educational organizations, and other education leaders to become part of the national association.”
Dr. Imam further said that, “as a strong manifestation of the education sector’s support to the GPH-MILF peace process and establishment of the MILF-led Bangsamoro political entity, NABEI requested Chairman Murad to host and grace this historic gathering as Keynote Speaker”.
What is NABEI? What does it stands for?
In order for us to understand the nature and characteristics of this organization, let us review our history of madaris in the Philippines.
In 1954, the Philippine Government officially recognized the establishment of madrasah (Islamic educational institution). Since then, the Muslim private schools have been struggling to address the genuine needs and demands of the Muslim populace for educating their families and children of Islamic traditions. There are very few Muslim scholars, educators, and intellectuals that are working in the madrasah and madaris. Thus, the challenge to provide quality educational programs and services has always been there right from the start.
The madrasah or madaris can be classified into three groups. These groups are as follows: traditional, private, and public madaris. The traditional are those who are not regulated by the government and mostly foreign assisted. Most of the traditional madaris are lagged behind in terms of effective and efficient management and administration of schools. Their graduates often find themselves unemployed because their schools are not recognized by the Department of Education or the Commission on Higher Education.
With the global impact on war on terrorism and the possible harm it may exposed the Muslim communities, a small group of administrators of private madaris made a consensual decision and commitment to get their acts together and work for the proper institutionalization of these madaris.
Consequently, “the National Association for Bangsanoro Education (NABEI) was born to act as a national educational body for hundreds of registered Muslim private schools in the Philippines. NABEI was formed in response to the urgent need of the Muslim educational institutions to appropriately capacitate them especially in different school management and pedagogical processes and functions. Thus, NABEI can assist them to readily face the developments and challenges of present and future Muslim education as well as to thrive in this fast-paced technological and knowledge economy age”.(NABEI Primer 2013)
Last Janauary 19, 2014 in a round table discussion (RTD) organized by Al Qalam Institute, Dr. Imam told us that, “the government financial support to private schools through Government Assistance to Students and Teachers in Private Education (GASTPE) Program and to private madaris through DepEd Order 81 is a milestone effort to address the access and quality of education. Also, the foreign- assisted programs geared towards helping new private madaris to qualify for government support is indicative of positive outcome of recent madrasah interventions. But all these supports are only temporary and could never serve as an ultimate solution to the “poor” quality of Muslim schools”.
In the said RTD it showed that there is an emerging global interest on madrasah education especially in the aftermath of 9/11 tragedy. Thus, it is high time to sustain the operation of Muslim schools throughout the country. As result of the RTD, we recommend that Muslim schools to be assisted and regulated in their delivery of quality, equitable, responsive, effective and efficient services to our communities.
With this realization, we need to attract more stakeholders of madaris institutions, such as the student – enrollees, qualified and competent school administrators/managers, teachers and staff, and active partner institution/ organizations to be fully engaged.
“As a whole, opportunities and challenges to Muslim education still continue. Worth noting are the present interventions by government and non-government agencies on Muslim education through the support to private madaris, Muslim schools and colleges, ALIVE program, and the prospect for MILF-led support to Bangsamoro education. In this case, there is a need to monitor and evaluate these interventions to find out their outcomes and impact on the school recipients. The NABEI can assist in these endeavors to solicit regular feedbacks needed in maintaining quality education for the holistic development of Bangsamoros. With the present NABEI, opportunities to Bangsamoro private education may increase and any forms of supports will be efficiently facilitated and sustained to appropriately meet the felt needs, interests and aspirations of the Bangsamoro . The NABEI can further collaborate dynamically with local and foreign agencies, organizations or institutions for the success of Muslim education in the Philippines”.(NABEI Primer 2013)
I remembered the words of Renato Constantino that states:
“Education is a vital weapon of a people striving for economic emancipation, political independence and cultural renaissance. We are such a people. Philippine education therefore must produce Filipinos who are aware of their country’s problems, who understand the basic solution to these problems, and who care enough to have courage to work and sacrifice for their country’s salvation.”
I am happy to be part of the development of NABEI and the Bangsamoro education. I have transcended my political and cultural view on the notion of Bangsamoro. I wish to be part of building our nation and our future as inclusive as possible.