ABOUT 90% of managers of Muslim schools, or madaris, in southern Philippines want government recognition and access to public funds, according to a study by the Institute for Autonomy and Governance (IAG).

“About 90% of madaris leaders surveyed aspire for government recognition and support,” says AIG study, a copy of which was emailed to BusinessWorld on Aug. 27.

A total of 169 madaris in what used to be known as the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), now the Bangsamoro ARMM, and adjacent regions were surveyed last year.

The study found that only 1.8% of Islamic schools are not interested in applying for government recognition while 8.3% are not sure if they will apply for it.

“The interest for government recognition is expected from the traditional madaris because of the technical or financial support they can get from it,” the study said.

“This is for the purpose of sustainability and for the improvement of the quality of education comparable to other secular schools in the Philippines,” it added.

The study noted that there are at least 1,534 Muslim schools in ARMM and at least 316 in adjacent regions.

About 90% of these are kindergarten, 79% primary, 62% intermediate, 21% secondary, and 2% college.

These schools, which aim for the preservation and transmission of Islamic faith and identity, are struggling for existence and sustainability as they rely heavily on donations and volunteers.

There are also limited employment opportunities for their graduates due to lack of employable skills, which limit their contribution to “security and socio-economic development” of Muslim communities in Mindanao.

“They cannot compete with graduates of secular schools in finding jobs,” the study says.

Another problem the study found is Muslim school leaders and key stakeholders “are seriously concerned about the growing perception that traditional madaris are being used for recruitment by terrorist groups.”

“This perception became more pronounced after the Marawi siege in 2017, when a drastic decrease in enrollment was recorded, dampening the morale of personnel. The flow of donation and other similar support to madaris was also greatly reduced.”

School leaders interviewed said there is a need for government recognition “because it is the only way to reduce vulnerability to security threat as they will be secured by the government similar to public schools.”

The new BARMM government, currently in transition, plans to make madaris and public schools operate as an integrated system, the study noted.

Among the recommendations are for the national government to simplify the requirements and processes for accreditation and recognition of Muslims schools; financial assistance; government agencies concerned should work with Muslim schools to offer employment and enterprise training, among others; and the Office of the President should create an inter-agency coordination board for madrasah education to provide strategic policy and programming leadership, among others.

The IAG also recommended special government focus on human rights-based redress of violent extremism and terrorism, drugs, and rido (clan wars).

One way to do this is by involving the madaris sector in peace and security efforts at the municipal and barangay levels. — Arjay L. Balinbin