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DepEd-ARMM on education problems: Complicated but resolvable

Teachers from across Sulu province wait for their turns to ventilate the issues and administrative constraints besetting their schools during an education summit in the province. DepEd-ARMM photo

COTABATO CITY, Philippines  - The education department of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) will do its best to address within 2015 the problems of teachers in Sulu, which the present administration merely inherited from past ARMM governors, a regional official said Friday.

John Magno, ARMM’s regional education secretary, said the fiscal and administrative issues hounding the department’s rank-and-file personnel in Sulu were discussed during the first ever provincial education summit early this week in Jolo town, capital of the island province. 

"The problems are complicated but resolvable if local government units, teachers, the regional government and the local communities will hold hands together to beat the odds," Magno said.

Among the most pressing issues discussed during the summit, which elected provincial officials attended, were lack of teachers and school buildings in the province.

Magno said the Department of Education (DepEd) in the autonomous region and DepEd officials in Sulu agreed to cooperate in addressing the non-completion by certain contractors of school building projects in far-flung areas and the repair of old and dilapidated ones.

“We already have a monitoring team tasked to look into these concerns. We shall act on these concerns based on their findings and recommendations,” Magno said.

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Among the participants to the summit was Sulu’s provincial vice governor, Hadji Abdusakur Tan Sr., who has been very vocal about the issues and constraints besetting public schools and teachers in the province.

Sulu was lucky to have had two residents to become ARMM governor, Nur Misuari (1996-2001) and Parouk Hussin (2001-2005), but none of them had solved the same problems hounding the area even before the creation of the autonomous region via a plebiscite in 1990.

The present ARMM administration has earmarked P560 million for school building projects for academic year 2015-2016.

Incumbent ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman said teachers and the local communities in Sulu must vigilantly monitor the construction of new schools and the rehabilitation of old ones to ensure implementation efficiency.

Hundreds of new licensed teachers for Sulu’s 18 towns have been hired by DepEd-ARMM in recent months, replacing “ghost mentors” and unqualified appointees of past regional governors, enlisted based only on recommendation of politicians and facilitation, in exchange for money, by past education officials.

The extensive hiring processes the new teachers underwent were premised on admission exams and actual mentoring tests devised by Magno, an industrial psychologist and expert in the present ARMM administration.

“Those that applied despite lack of qualifications were told to go home and never return unless they become qualified to teach based on the standards set by the department and the Civil Service Commission,” Magno said.

The DepEd-ARMM held last month a similar education summit for teachers and school officials in the first district of Maguindanao in Parang town northeast of the province.

The ARMM, which has autonomous executive and legislative branches, covers Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur, both in mainland Mindanao, and the island provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi under a regional charter, the Republic Act 9054.

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