Our Schools as ‘Peace Zones’ near Marawi

School children play during dismissal outside the gate of Lugait Centrak School, Misamis Oriental

If you drive too fast, you won’t see that many schools near Marawi carry signs indicating they are “peace zones.”

I saw this first hand on a recent visit to the area. Many of the government schools in Misamis Oriental on the way to Iligan carry this “peace zone” sign outside the gate.

Dismissal time at Sta. Filomena Central School, Iligan City

Education Secretary Leonor Briones has appealed to both government and rebel troops to treat schools as neutral ground despite being in the middle of intense armed conflict. Schools should be “free from the presence of armed combatants regardless of what side they are from,” Briones said.

On the surface, it does not look like there’s a war just an hour away. The dismissal was busy but orderly.

In a sense, having the signs placed outside the school gates is similar to placing the Red Cross symbol so that combatants should stay away. Even when schools are not the direct target in a conflict, a war just an hour or so away could have easily prevented students and teachers from going to school. That the schools continue to operate normally is something that the DepEd, teachers and parents should take credit for. 30

It’s a regular school day at Linangkayan Elementary School in Naawan, Misamis Oriental

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