Text by Artha Kira Paredes
Photos and Video by Amiel Mark Cagayan
DATU ODIN SINSUAT, Maguindanao—Classes went on as usual for elementary pupils and high school students here, even if classrooms in some schools were designated voters' registration areas.
At noon last Friday, students of Sarilikha National High School in Barangay Semba were caught in a flurry of activities, apparently impervious to the ongoing registration of voters in two classrooms at the front of the school compound.
Those dismissed prepared to head for home or cleaned their classrooms while several groups in the covered court were practicing cheers and dances for a school presentation.
Acting Assistant Schools Division Supervisor Brahim Gulam said there was no suspension of classes in the first district of the Department of Education (DepEd) in Maguindanao even if several classrooms are being utilized as registration centers.
The schools in the towns of Datu Blah T. Sinsuat, Upi North, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Sultan Kudarat, Sultan Mastura, Parang, Buldon, Barira, Matanog, and Kabuntalan North and South are under the first district of Manguindanao DepEd.
Voters registration in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) set from July 9 to 18.
Gulam said that while most of the 34 barangays in Datu Odin Sinsuat use one to two classrooms for the registrations, there is no directive to suspend classes. Classes are either held in extra rooms and classrooms or shifting takes place, he said.
When classes take shifts, students and pupils are still able to attend all their subjects but the time is reduced, he said.
At the high school in Barangay Semba here, second year high school students whose classroom is being used as a registration center held classes at the school library.
The junior students whose classroom serves as an area to fill up forms transferred to an unused room.
DepEd's Assistant Secretary for Operations Noor Saada said they do not have data yet on how many classrooms are being used as registration centers in ARMM.
He said that DepEd ARMM released a memo decentralizing the decision-making on whether a classroom can be used for registration or not.
To speed up the process, the district supervisor coordinates with the local election officer, he said.
Decision on whether to suspend classes may vary depending on the assessment of the situation, he said.
"If the decision is warranted, they can call off the class…if the school is not used for registration, if security is okay, classes push through," he said.
(ARMM WATCH is a project of VERA Files in partnership with MindaNews, The Asia Foundation and Australian Agency for International Development. VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. VERA is Latin for "true.")