"They take pride in the floating school as truly theirs. Not only does it show their desire to attend school, but it also reflects the importance they give to their culture."
On March 2016, a floating classroom was launched for the Bajau young learners of Angiskul ma Bangka (AmB) or “Classes in Bancas” Early Childhood Education Program in Masepla Transitory Site, Zamboanga. Borne from the collaborative work of stakeholders and community members themselves, the floating classroom takes on relevance in many levels for these Bajau seafaring people who were displaced from their coastal homes due to political conflict in their area in 2013.
Al-Fatima Ahiyal, community organizer of Cartwheel’s local implementing partner, Ateneo de Zamboanga University-Center for Community Extension Services, speaks on behalf of the Bajau learners and parents with whom she closely works:
“Sa ibang katutubo, ang lupa ay buhay; para naman sa Bajau, ang dagat ay buhay. Nakaugat sa pagiging Bajau ang bangka, na tulad nilang madalas ding lumalayag. Ang tingin nila sa bangkang AmB ay hindi lang klasrum. Nakikita rin nila ito bilang promotion ng kanilang kultura. Hindi lamang ito makulay dahil daycare ito na pambata, ngunit ipinakikita nito kung gaano rin kabuhay ang kultura ng mga Bajau.
“‘Yung floating school ay ipinagmamalaki nilang sa kanila iyon. Hindi lang nito ipinapakita ang kanilang kagustuhang mag-aral, pero lalo na nitong ipinahihiwatig ang pagpapahalaga nila sa kanilang kultura. Ngayon ay lumobo na ang bilang ng learners, umabot na ng mahigit isang daan. Tingin ko, ang bangka ay nakakaengganyo sa mga bata. At home sila. Alam nilang kinakatawan ng bangka ang kanilang tribo.
“Nasabi ng isa sa mga magulang noong ibinigay ang bangka na hindi lamang panlilimos ang kayang gawin ng mga Bajau. Kaya rin nilang mapag-aral ang kanilang sarili at pagyamanin pa ang kanilang kultura.”
(“For other Indigenous Peoples, land is life; for the Bajau, the sea is life. The boat has deep roots in the Bajau, as they are the same in often setting sail at sea. They do not view the AmB boat only as their classroom. They also see it as a promotion of their culture. It is not only colorful because it was built as a daycare center for kids, but it also shows the vibrance of Bajau culture.
“They take pride in the floating school as truly theirs. Not only does it show their desire to attend school, but it also reflects the importance they give to their culture. The current number of learners has ballooned to more than a hundred. I think it is the boat that has helped in encouraging the children. It is where they feel at home. They understand that the boat represents their tribe.
“During the turn-over of the boat to the community, one of the parents said that begging is not the only thing Bajau know how to do. They also know how to educate themselves and enrich their own culture all the more.”)
AmB is currently on its third program cycle this 2016-2017. Bajau parents have been so inspired by the education of their children that they have expressed desire for opportunities to learn themselves. The Adult Capability Building Program for Bajau youth and older community members opened in 2015 where sessions help develop their functional literacy and relevant life skills, at the same time advocating for peace.
Find out more about the launching of the Angiskul ma Bangka floating classroom here.