The establishment of these SDCs aims to help create economic opportunities for former combatants and community members of MILF camps and prepare them to participate in livelihood activities.
Philippine Business for Social Progress(PBSP) Executive Director Elvin Ivan Uy and Australian Ambassador to the Philippines Her Excellency HK Yu PSM handed over the first of the seven Skills Development Centers (SDC) built in Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) camps at Camp Badre in Maguindanao, Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao(BARMM).
The activity is being implemented under the Classroom Construction Support Program in partnership with the BARMM Ministry of Basic, Higher and Technical Education (MBHTE) to support the normalization and camps transformation efforts of the Bangsamoro Government and the Government of the Philippines
The establishment of these SDCs aims to help create economic opportunities for former combatants and community members of MILF camps and prepare them to participate in livelihood activities that will give employment or entrepreneurial opportunities to their respective communities.
Equipped with classroom setup workshop rooms, these centers will provide skills trainings and technical assistance in areas of literacy, agriculture, food processing, carpentry, masonry, electrical installation and maintenance, automotive, and dressmaking, among others. The seven SDCs were designed with a prayer room, PWD-friendly ramps, gender-sensitive toilets, and lockers. Water catchment and washing facilities were also installed.
The project is also in the process of setting up solar power in two camps – Camps Badre and Bushra – as a source of energy due to the sites’ lack of access to electricity.
Further, PBSP is working closely with MBHTE to complement resources for the complete provision of tools, equipment, and furniture for the identified skills development priorities of each SDC.
“A Skills Development Center inside a recognized camp of the MILF highlights our belief in the significance of effective education delivery to sustainable peace. We are therefore grateful to the Australian Government and their implementing partner, Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP), for this critical project. Education and skills training can help reduce the risk of people turning to or returning to conflict and change their attitudes toward violence. For former MILF combatants, it is a valuable opportunity to learn critical skills and become productive members of their communities. By working together, I am confident that we will create and sustain an enabling environment for our children and future generations to thrive and succeed,” said Minister Mohagher Iqbal, Minister of Basic, Higher, and Technical Education, and MILF Peace Implementing Panel Chair during his message at the handover ceremony.
Australia’s holistic approach to supporting education reforms in the Bangsamoro works through different entry points. Caroline Vandenabeele, Team Leader of Education Pathways to Peace in Mindanao expressed that Pathways’ presence inside this SDC underscores the importance of basic literacy and numeracy for a wide range of future education and learning options, including technical-vocational skills development.
The Education Pathways to Peace in Mindanao is a 9-year program that supports early grade education in the Bangsamoro for all children, no matter their gender, religion, ethnicity, disability or physical location. The Pathways and MBHTE teams work together to leave no child behind and provide opportunities for improved learning for all.
PBSP and the Australian Government have long been partners in the implementation of programs that assist underserved communities in the Philippines particularly in increasing access to education and improving the quality of learning spaces for students and the youth, especially in Mindanao.
“It is a privilege to be able to visit an MILF camp and to formally hand over this beautiful building, the Skills Development Center. This tangible building, it’s just abuilding but it’s so much more than that. This is where dreams and hopes actually come alive. The Australian Government is really committed to making education in the Bangsamoro relevant, inclusive, and appropriate for your tradition, for your context, and for your needs in the region. I really hope that the Camp Badre community and its surrounding areas will be able to fully benefit from this project and that the facility will be an instrument to lifting your lives for the better. So, with that, I congratulate and thank everybody that was involved in working together to make this Skills Development Center a reality today,” said Ambassador HK Yu during the handover ceremony.
Since 2013, the Australian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) through its Classroom Construction Support Program, has constructed a total of 510 disaster-resilient classrooms in 164 schools nationwide, creating 22,950 learning spaces and reaching at least 163,299 learners in seven years. The project also handed a prototype Alternative Learning System – Education Skills Training (ALS-EST) center in Eastern Samar and Skills Development Centers in seven MILF camps.
To ensure the sustainability of these education and skills training facilities, PBSP conducts capacity-building programs for the structures’ proper utilization and maintenance.
They also developed knowledge products to assist the MBHTE in improving its capacity to accelerate the delivery of school infrastructure by institutionalizing systems, processes, and capabilities on planning, budgeting, and monitoring and evaluation. This includes a Manual for School Heads and Teachers on Maintenance and Sustainability of classrooms, Schools Facilities Implementation Manual (SFIM), and learning videos on the Different stages of School Building Construction.