Cost of war: 550 students drop out of school in NorthCot


Malu Cadelina-Manar/MIndaNews
Sunday, 09 November 2008 06:50
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st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) } KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews/8 Nov) – Some 550 students in North Cotabato have dropped out of school since hostilities between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) resumed in early August, police said.


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Chief Supt. Felicisimo Khu, head of the Task Force Palma-Pikit, said most of the dropouts are high school students, numbering 448; the rest are in elementary. Most affected is a public high school in the town of Carmen, where 33 students, all males and all Maguindanaons, stopped reporting back to school.

The principal of Takepan National High School in Pikit town earlier said that 15 of her students failed to return to school when classes resumed.

The police also noted student dropouts in Aleosan, Banisilan, Pikit, Carmen, Tulunan, M’lang, Midsayap, Alamada, Kabacan, and Matalam.

Khu said that based on their initial findings, the students left school mainly because of fear that fighting might erupt again. He added that poverty also prevented the others from going back to school.

“But we do not discount the possibility that some of these students might have been recruited by an armed group operating in North Cotabato,” said Khu, adding that they did receive “disturbing” reports of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s (MILF) Commander Umbra Kato training children for warfare.

Khu stressed that recruiting minors for war is a violation of local and international laws.

The MILF, however, denied the reports, saying it was part of a government propaganda to discredit the rebel group.

“Everybody is using Kato in whatever way possible. I don’t think some of these students who dropped out from school have gone training at one of our camps,” said Eid Kabalu, chief of civil-military relations of the MILF’s Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces. (Malu Cadeliña Manar / MindaNews)

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