AUSTRALIA'S EDUCATION PROGRAM IN MINDANAO SUPPORTS MUSLIM TEACHERS
For a long time, Ustadz Meto Baito dreamed of earning a college degree. But like most people, financial difficulties hindered him from completing formal education in a university. Despite the challenge, he knew that someday, this dream will turn into reality.
With his knowledge and background of the Arabic language and Islamic values, he was able to get a temporary teaching position at Guadalupe Elementary School in Carmen, Davao del Norte as an Arabic Language and Islamic Values Education (ALIVE) teacher. Although thankful for this opportunity, his dream of earning a college diploma lingered in his heart.
When Ustadz Meto learned of a scholarship offered for asatidz (Muslim teachers) to become professional teachers, he applied for the scholarship and became one of the pioneer Islamic teachers in Region XI to take the Accelerated Teacher Education Program (ATEP) at the University of Southeastern Philippines in Davao City.
The Expanded Support to Muslim Education (ESME) component of the Basic Education Assistance for Mindanao (BEAM) Project launched the Accelerated Teacher Education Program (ATEP) in March 2006. The BEAM Project, a partnership of the Department of Education (DepEd) and the Australian Government through a A$36 million grant from the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), aims to improve the quality of and access to basic education in Southern and Central Mindanao.
The ATEP is BEAM Project’s strategic response to provide the DepEd with quality Muslim teachers for the ALIVE classes in public schools. ATEP prepares the asatidz for the Licensure Exam for Teachers (LET) to allow them, eventually, to take on permanent positions in the DepEd, thereby institutionalizing the ALIVE Program in the public school system.
The ATEP Program is not just a scholarship program. It poses the challenge for the asatidz to serve as ambassadors of peace and bridge cultural understanding and religious tolerance in the community.
In May 2007, after a year and one summer of juggling his work and studies, Ustadz Meto, at the age of 45, proudly walked up the stage to receive his Bachelor of Elementary Education (BEEd) diploma along with 57 of his classmates.
He also received a leadership and an excellence award, a testament of his determination and perseverance despite the struggles of keeping up with university standards while coping with the demands of work and taking care of his family.
“We are very grateful to the BEAM Project for this life-changing opportunity and to our university professors who shared their knowledge with us. In behalf of my fellow ATEP graduates, we vow to share to our students and the community the learning and experiences we earned,” said Ustadz Meto in a speech he delivered at the graduation ceremony.
On its pilot implementation, more than 350 asatidz graduated with a degree in BEEd with specialization on Islamic Studies and Arabic Language in six partner universities around Mindanao namely: University of Southeastern Philippines (USEP) in Davao City, University of Southern Mindanao (USM) in Kabacan, North Cotabato, Notre Dame University (NDU) in Cotabato City and the Mindanao State University (MSU) camopuses in General Santos City, Marawi City and Tawi-Tawi.
Dr. Manaros B. Boransing, DepEd Undersecretary for Mindanao Affairs who was present during the graduation ceremony, described it as a unique accomplishment among the asatidz. “A great responsibility awaits you as the first batch of professional teachers to have a balanced secular and sectarian education,” he said in his message to the graduates.
Australia is recognized as the lead bilateral donor in education through the Philippines Development Forum and whose assistance to basic education is the largest in Mindanao and is now expanding in the Visayas. A high priority of the Australian Government’s aid to the Philippines, about 40% of the Australian aid budget for its 2007-2008 financial year has been earmarked for education programs. Education initiatives will be increased in the next two to three years to assist DepED's implementation of its basic education reform agenda and to enhance its on-going activities to improve access to schools and better teaching in Mindanao and the Visayas.