By Ali G. Macabalang
Various sectors including Islamic clerics are all praises over current strides by the parliament and bureaucracy of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) to harness graduates of madaris, asatiz, hafiz and ulama by way of employment and other income-generating ventures.
Words of appreciation stemmed one after another from police, military, academe and other peace stakeholder in a common positive perception of the BARMM government’s thrust to address the plight of madaris (Arabic and Islamic schools) gradates, asatiz (teachers), hafis (Qur’an memorizing narrators), and ulama (Islamic scholars).
“There are hundreds of madaris in BARMM alone whose graduates by the thousands yearly either become asatiz or unemployed. Hafiz and ulama are equally growing in number and ending up self-venturing because they do not have space in the government…This situation has been susceptible to exploitation by violent ideology-espousing groups,” a retired Army general told the Philippine Muslim Today news on Wednesday.
The former two-star official, who asked not to be named, described the BARMM thrust as “one of very vital steps” to abate poverty and quell terror-bound extremism. He noted that “poverty has been a source of dismay” among local graduates of madaris, taking exception to Muslim countries that have ready programs for such alumni.
In a recent webinar, BARMM Education Minister Mohagher Iqbal said his technical people were deliberating details of incorporating asatiz and madaris graduates not only into regional school classrooms but also in administrative works related to the current thrust on integrating Arabic and Islamic studies with regular curricula.
Iqbal hinted that solving the unfair plight of such unemployed or underemployed Bangsamoro people is imperative in fleshing out the “inclusive” scope of BARMM governance.
His pronouncement gained credence in the deliberation of proposed BARMM’s Civil Service Code by the 80-member regional parliament.
At the Parliament’s 52nd session on Feb. 17 here, Lawyer Paisalin Tago, a parliament member from Lanao del Sur, asserted that the plight of madariz graduates, asatiz, hafis and ulama should be considered in such code.
Tago, a former legislative speaker of the defunct Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), said the regional civil service law would be the “pillar” of the Administrative Code enacted last year by the parliament.
Positive experiences outside BARMM
Harnessing madaris graduates and asatiz has been successful albeit initially in the cities of Davao and Gen. Santos and the provinces of Sarangani and South Cotabato, according to Philippine Muslim Today news sources.
“The LGUs (local government units) of Davao City and General Santos City have been giving monthly honoraria to the asatiz teaching in various madaris,” Dr. Anshari P. Ali, chancellor of the Mindanao State University-Gen. Santos City (MSU-GSC) campus, said, noting that such cities are predominantly Christian communities.
Sarangani, also a Christian-dominated province, asked the MSU-GSC in the year 2005 to assist in crafting means of replicating the Davao and Gen. Santos cities’ programs, recalled Ali, a doctorate holder in Islamic and Shariah study.
Ali said he was designated assistant project manager of the joint venture of the MSU-GSC and Sarangani to conduct survey on existing madaris in the province, identify their asatiz and screen for regular employment or entitlement to monthly honoraria.
“After holding interviews and recommendations for hiring, more than 100 asatidz have gained monthly honoraria from the Sarangani government until now,” Ali said.
From 2006 to 2010, the Australian basic education assistance for Mindanao (BEAM) engaged the MSU System to implement the Accelerated Teacher Education Program (ATEP) for asatidz, said Ali, who was designated assistant ATEP project manager for Gen. Santos City.
For the MSU-GSC, the ATEP program has combined 60 units of Islamic Studies subjects from the Islamic Studies Department and College of Social Sciences and Humanities (CSSH) with more than 80 units on method of teaching subjects in the College of Education, Ali said.
“We have recruited more than 270 asatidz who also graduated from high school level in madaris education. We took them into the program to take a Bachelor of Elementary Education specializing Islamic Studies program. After having completed said degree, they were qualified to take the Licensure Examination for Teacher (LET),” he recalled.
The LET passers were appointed as regular elementary and high school teachers at the Department of Education (DepEd) handling Arabic Language and Islamic Values (ALIVE) subjects, he said.
Those who did not make it the LET exam have been given monthly honoraria by the local government units in South Cotabato, Sarangani and Gen. Santos City (SOCSARGEN) area while handling ALIVE subjects, he said.
Dr. Ali expressed confidence that the governance of BARMM government, being a Muslim-dominated region, can be “more successful” in harnessing the potentials of madaris graduates, asatiz, hafis and ulama when “proper processes are done.” AGM