Zambo students graduate despite effect of siege
Despite the 2013 Zamboanga crisis, some students come out of the ordeal carrying a diploma.

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – The siege in Zamboanga City last year destroyed homes, disrupted livelihood, and forced children out of school.

But 3 schools most affected by the fighting managed to get a high percentage of its students to go back to school and to graduate.

Jee Geronimo reports.


AYESHA LAGAYAN, STUDENT: Ang pangarap ko po sa buhay makapagtapos ng pag-aaral, makahanap ng trabaho upang matulungan po mga magulang ko. (My dream is to finish my studies and find a job so I can help my parents.)

Life was tough for Ayesha Lagayan and her family even before the fighting broke out between government troops and rebels in Zamboanga City last September 2013.

During the siege, her family lost its home, her father lost his job and Ayesha lost her school. For the rest of the year, Ayesha and her classmates studied in tents.

Santa Barbara Central School was part of ground zero during the Zamboanga siege. The school has been off limits to students since September last year for fear these bullet holes will only remind them the horror of the almost 3-week ordeal. Now a deserted area, Santa Barbara Central is one of 3 schools most affected by last year’s fighting.

But there’s a silver lining behind the black cloud, despite the devastation, the schools record high graduation rates. The secret to success? School officials tracked students and encouraged them to go back to school.

Education department official Pete Natividad says Sta Barbara school house will not be ready for students by next school year.

PETE NATIVIDAD , DEPED ZAMBOANGA CITY OFFICER-IN-CHARGE: For the meantime, one of the consideration is to find an alternative place. Sa ngayon kasi nasa division training center sila. (Now they’re just at the division training center.) You will see how crowded, how small is the space.

But classes continued despite the shortage in classrooms.

PETE NATIVIDAD, DEPED ZAMBOANGA CITY OFFICER-IN-CHARGE: Isa rin yang dapat i-consider namin–saan yung bulk ng IDPs coming from Sta Barbara kasi some of them are still in the grandstand, some are homebound, and some are realigned to some transitory sites. (That’s another thing we need to consider – where are the bulk of IDPs coming from Sta. Barbara.)

The department will open summer classes for students who stopped going to school. Teachers try to make classes as fun as possible so kids keep coming back.

Ayesha will not be taking summer classes. Against all odds, she finishes elementary as the valedictorian of her class. Her graduation speech says it all.

AYESHA LAGAYAN, STA BARBARA CENTRAL SCHOOL VALEDICTORIAN: To end, I would like to say that the greatest miracle of our success in life will not be that we finish. It will be that we had the courage to begin.

Jee Geronimo, Rappler, Zamboanga City  –

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