For the Bajau of Zamboanga, education is about coming together. Beyond learning for self-development alone, it has become a binding force that has deepened their sense of community and drive for collaborative action.
On September 13, 2017, Cartwheel Foundation, Inc. (Cartwheel PH) together with local development partner, Ateneo de Zamboanga University-Center for Community Extension Services (ADZU-CCES), dialogued with Bajau young learners and their mothers to validate their community’s shared vision. It was most encouraging to hear from the adults and the children themselves, as they all were given equal opportunity to participate in the process.
Since Cartwheel PH’s initial engagement with their families in 2014, they have had to move twice—from the streets to the transitory site, and now to more permanent homes closer to the sea but spread out across different areas. Even with their frequent need to uproot and resettle in the recent past, they have remained unyielding in how much value they attribute to culturally relevant education.
Mothers whose children have already moved up to elementary schools renewed commitment to help in sustained program implementation in the simple ways they can: participating during community consultation sessions, organizing Bajau cultural and religious gatherings, preparing meals for the children’s supplemental feeding. They continue to embrace Angiskul ma Bangka (Classes in Bancas) Early Childhood Education Program and the Adult Capability Building Program (ACAP) as initiatives that recognize their Bajau roots and allow them to thrive given their unique cultural identity.