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Saturday, May 23, 2009

Three Pikit barangays receive new school buildings from AFP, JSOTF-P

PIKIT, North Cotabato, Philippines -- The Armed Forces of the Philippines and U.S. Joint Special Operations Task Force - Philippines turned over new school buildings to three barangays in North Cotabato province this week, just in time for the new school year.

The barangays of Nanguan, Nabundas, and Gokotan— all in the municipality of Pikit— each received keys to a brand new single-unit, two-classroom building, thanks to construction efforts spearheaded by the AFP’s 6th Infantry Division, 602nd Infantry Brigade, 7th Infantry Battalion and U.S. forces.

“Before, we had our classes in the shade of another building. We didn’t even have chairs,” said Nengkon Saudi-Musa, the teacher-in-charge at Nanguan. “This is a very big classroom, with desks. It’s very nice. It’s very good for teaching.”

The AFP conducted an assessment of the area and determined that Nanguan, Nabundas, and Gokotan were most in need of new school buildings as a result of exposure to the elements, regional conflict and distance to neighboring school buildings. Gokotan, for example, was four kilometers from the nearest school building before this new one was built. In Nanguan, the school was an open-walled barn with little protection from the heat and the elements. The previous Nabundas school house suffered so much from flooding that a completely new site had to be found.

“All of our books were being submerged by water during the floods,” said Raquel Godoy, a teacher at Nabundas Elementary School. “The chairs were becoming so rusted, there were times when our students were being injured by them.”

Once the sites had been identified, the AFP and JSOTF-P hired local contractors to complete the work on the three new schools. Each new schoolhouse consists of a 550-square meter building divided into two classrooms, and includes comfort rooms for the students and teachers. A precise headcount won’t be available until class registrations, but Capt. Janette Kautzman, team leader of JSOTF-P’s Civil Affairs Team 735, estimates these three schhols will see as many as 750 students this school year.

The efforts that went into building these schools demonstrate the continued AFP and JSOTF-P commitment to enhancing educational opportunities for the children of Mindanao.

“The school is not just a physical building,” said Col. Cesar Dionisio T. Sedillo, 602nd IB Deputy Commander. “It represents education.”

Those sentiments were echoed by U.S. Army Major Devan Shannon, the commander of JSOTF-P’s Task Force Mindanao.

“This school is a venue so that teachers can continue to inspire the youth here. That’s what it’s all about,” said Shannon at the turnover ceremony in Nanguan.

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