MSU is lifeline in Marawi City

HAMMERHEAD

by Moy Alonto Lucman

As my maiden write up, there is a lot to tell, especially with the political season beginning to heat up. But everybody talks about politics. I choose something else.

Today, Tuesday, is Sept 1, Mindanao State University’s 60th founding anniversary. What’s in it that has not yet been told? That it is the premier institution of higher learning in Mindanao, that it is the melting pot of the south, meaning social assimilation of peoples of different creeds and religion as part of the nation building… We’ve been saying this for 60 years.. and it did fulfill this vision to a certain degree.

Stories abound of long lasting friendships molded in the campus, or rags to riches stories of alumni hitting big-time pay here and abroad. But skip this part of the MSU story. Everybody says this.

How is MSU now? I haven’t gone around the main campus for much of the times I was in ARMM. Recently I did. And I felt like saying to myself; my goodness, the campus is almost gone.. Residential houses stand next to academic buildings. The fabled MSU Golf Course area was reduced in size due to the construction of a new building. How did this happen? Admin officials said there was no other area to erect the building so that they had to build it in the golf course.

The squatting in the campus is so terrible the university autonomy is literally compromised. The knowledge of man expands to greater horizons and the number of students increases as humans multiply, so does the need for wider areas for academic instruction. One thing is clear; MSU cannot sustain itself as a premier institution with the present condition of its main campus. Besides, security wise, it’s a nightmare.

We cannot expect academic excellence without excellent instructors. And such instructors are hard to attract if safety and security are not assured. This squatting problem has been building up throughout the succession of MSU leaderships. It is everybody’s fault to be fair. One former MSU President was said to have confided in a subordinate while this issue was being discussed: ‘I wish I could wake up from this nightmare and this problem is gone..”

Not that easy, my friend. The real problem is leadership choosing to dodge the issue because he is either weak, or many of those involved are his relatives or friends, or simply lacks appreciation of the far-reaching consequences of the problem. The campus is supposed to be a thousand hectares. Not even half that size is now available to the university.

Marawi minus MSU would be like a human body reduced to a skeleton. It is everything to the city;  it pumps hard cash to the city, generates employment, livelihood, businesses etc, educates people in and out of the classroom, promotes tourism, friendship, camaraderie, understanding, loyalty, and even love. Love of MSU or love ending in marital bliss puts Marawi on the global map.

For reasons mind bogglingly inexplicable, the Maranao is destroying the university. Officials and non-officials are all part of the blame – all of us, no exception. The solution can be as radical as anyone can imagine: Vacate the school premises to allow growth and expansion.

At pre-siege level, the student population was 14,000 according to official records. It produces around 900 grads every year. Education is unbelievably cheap. If you are smart enough, tuition is free. If you are academically smart, the university gives you a monthly stipend. God bless my uncle, late Sen. Ahmad Domocao Alonto Sr. for the creation of this iconic school. But he would have been fuming mad at the sight of its current state.

Malacañang, BARMM, Provincial government, City Hall, and other Lanao LGUs should work together to retrieve the lands illegally occupied. And more – develop the campus environment as autonomous, academic, and student friendly. Much like when it was during the seventies. We need to be constantly reminded that MSU is a blessing designed to outlast every generation so that this blessing continues to the next and next.

No one is bigger than MSU. Everybody is morally bound to protect and preserve this institution in each other’s own way, big or small, because either you have a son or daughter or relative or friend benefitting or will benefit from its continued existence education-wise, employment-wise, or in any way, financial wise.

In a nutshell, MSU is a lifeline. Without it, Marawi is lifeless. Protect MSU!

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