World Teachers’ Day more meaningful this year for ARMM teachers
COTABATO CITY – The Department of Education in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (DEPEDARMM) paid tribute to the teachers during the celebration of World Teachers’ Day.
This year’s observance has become more meaningful for hundreds of teachers in the region whose lives were in danger for several months last year. When the war in Marawi erupted in 2017, schools inside the city had to shut down and living in and near conflict areas have become very risky.
For 38-year old Mona Miscille Domato, the definition of the saying “teachers are the students’ second parents,” hit her the hardest during the Marawi siege. As a teacher of Sugod Central Elementary School in Marawi, Mona recounts the effects of the siege for her and her students. “Schools were closed down during the siege, but I urged my fellow teachers to continue our classes,” she said. “If the students will be left home, their minds may be corrupted by the war.” True enough, almost every student talked about the number of bombs dropped in the city daily.
A mother of 9, Mona said she treats her students as her own. During the siege, she also felt the pain her students manifested. “Many of my students were hungry and helpless,” she said. “I also felt the hunger and the pain of these children.”
Instead of being pulled down by negativity, she took the situation as an inspiration to serve as the students’ second mother. Continuing their classes despite the siege to provide safe spaces for children, she turned their classrooms into a ‘fun zone’ allowing her students to talk about the ongoing war casually.
“It allowed us to process all our thoughts. Having an all-muslim class, we also reflected on the teachings of Islam – that inflicting harm to others is not Islamic,” she said, adding, that by providing a space where students can be ‘afraid’ together, Mona said she also found a strong sense of family. “We made a strong support system among ourselves,” she said.
Now that the war in Marawi is over, she is thankful that her students no longer have to be afraid of their security. She said that the student population in Sugod Central Elementary School grew this school year because of the influx of children of evacuees from other villages.
“Mas madami na ang mga anak ko ngayon. I’m more inspired to teach now because despite what happened last year, we remained strong as a community,” Mona said. “That’s the key to teaching, when you treat your students as your own, you stand by them through their ups and downs. You become excited for their future.”
As Mona and her colleagues celebrate World Teachers’ Day, she said she remembers the thousands of students she met and interacted with. “Maraming bata na ang na-encounter ko, at araw-araw ay may iba’t ibang bagay akong natututunan mula sa kanila,” Mona said.
A teacher for 16 years, Mona is proud to have produced professionals from her former students. “My heart is full everyday knowing that the students I have today will give back to our community in the future,” she said.