Christian, Muslim Public Elementary Pupils Close Culture Gap Thru Islamic Lessons

Zamboanga City – “Now I know about the culture of Islam.”

Thus said Ferowane Regino, 11 years old and a grade six pupil of Baliwasan Central School, in this city. Like any other non-Muslim pupils in that school, she is now attending the Islamic Values and Language subject after it was integrated in the curriculum of the public elementary school just this school year.

Ferowane grew up as a Catholic, and practicing and learning about Christianity has been one of the important religious lessons that her parents have taught her at home. She expected to enjoy the chance to learn about other religions like Islam until now. Before, she thought the only good religion is Christianity.

Mindanao is a cultural melting pot of the country where different tribes practice different religions, yet its story is one of real discriminations between different believers, especially Muslims and Christians.

The Department of Education (Dep. Ed.) earlier came up with the Dep. Ed. Order 51 series of 2004, which mandates the integration of the Arabic Language and Islamic Values (ALIVE) in the curriculum of public elementary schools nationwide wherever there are Muslims students, but especially in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Accordingly, the education department has released the guidelines for the proper teaching of this new subject. The guidelines stipulated that all Muslims pupils from grades 1 to 6 shall be considered as grade one in Arabic Language and Islamic Values, subject to the availability of the teachers, school facilities and instructional materials.

In June 2006, Muslims pupils from grade 2 up t grade 6 shall be considered as grade 2 and so on, until the first cohort reaches grade 6.

Just this school year, the ALIVE has its full implementation here in the city especially in communities where there are many Muslims pupils enrolled.

ALIVE coordinator of the Division Office IX Bensali Hassan said the new subject will be taught in 16 pilot elementary schools here.

“The ALIVE subject will be taught here in the city where at least 90 % of the pupils are Muslims”, he said. Among the pilot elementary schools are those in Sta. Barbara, Sta. Catalina, Talon-Talon, Southcom and Baliwasan barangays.

Hassan said the teachings will center on writing and reading Arabic as well as Islamic values.

“The teacher will also teach their pupils how to show proper respect to their parents, and also about cleanliness and sanitations” , he said. The medium of instruction is basically in English.

To ensure that pupils will be properly guided, the teachers hired to handle the ALIVE subject must be a college graduate of an Islamic institution in Muslim countries or a local Madrasah, if available, or a high graduate but proficient in Arabic language or an experienced Madrasah teacher who may be temporarily hired.

College graduates have to take the National Qualification Examination given by the Bureau of Madrasah Education based in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao in Cotabato.

The Baliwasan Central School has a student population of about 2,000 this school year, and 50 percent of them are Muslims. Both Christian and the Muslim students are now benefiting from the newly integrated subject in their curriculum.

The ALIVE coordinator of the school noted happily that although it is not compulsory for the Christian pupils, an impressive number of them are enthusiastically attending ALIVE classes.

Lorenza Jailani said “it is mandated only for the Muslim pupils, but is good that many non-Muslim pupils are also attending. It can help them know more about the Islamic values”.

“Also many of the Christian parents agreed that their children attend the subject,” she said She is optimistic that all the pupils both Muslims and Christians will have better, more harmonious relationship because of this subject.

Part of the teaching is in advocating for peace in the country.

Jailani said because of this ALIVE subject, it is expected the prejudiced mindsets of pupils regarding Islam will be erased. “Values are being inculcated in lessons so the pupils will be aware about the real Islam”.

Principal Dr. Elviminda Llorca said aside from learning about values the Christian pupils are interested to learn Arabic language because the pupils are also aspiring to go abroad especially to the Middle East someday.

At the end of the school year, recognition will be given to the best pupil in the field of Islamic values, she said.

The most beneficial thing the pupils can get from the subject are that they can work together, she said. ” It creates harmonious relationships, naalis ang gap,” she added.

The only regular ALIVE teacher of the Baliwasan Central School, Alhidri Hairal, noted that one problem in teaching the subject is that some student take this subject for granted. Hiral is teaching grade 6.

But he is happy enough that this subject in the elementary is helping reduce discrimination among the students. He teaches his pupils that to become a real Muslim by totally submitting themselves to Allah.

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