Sat. May 25th, 2019

Exemption of Muslim students from school-required Xmas expenses urged

By Ali G. Macabalang

KIDAPAWAN CITY – Muslim parents have renewed a long-standing appeal for the Department of Education (DepEd) to exempt their student-children from public school classrooms-imposed expenses for Christmas celebration.

“We are appealing to higher authorities, especially DepEd Secretary Leonor Briones to listen to and act on our years of yearning for the exemption of our children from unabated financial requirements practiced by classroom teachers in some public and secondary schools,” a farmer-parent told the Manila Bulletin in vernacular yesterday.

The source, one of dozens of parents from poor ethnic Muslim Maguindanaon tribe, asked not to be named for fear that her complaint might result to undue treatment of her children by their classroom teachers or school officials.

Her two unnamed children are enrolled at the national high school and central elementary school at barangay Amas, the seat of North Cotabato provincial government, in this city. The city government has been appropriating funds for all public secondary and elementary in pursuit of the Constitutional provision on free education in the country.

She said both the Amas-based national high and elementary schools are Christian-dominated establishments noted for pompous observance of Christmas season, have never celebrated Muslim holidays, such as Eid’l Adha (end of annual hajj), Eid’l Fitr (end of Islamic fasting) and Maulidin Nabi (birth of Prophet Mohammad).

Mauldin Nabi falls on 12th of Rabbi’ul Awwal 1440 in the lunar Hijrah calendar corresponding to Nov. 20, for which the President issued a statement greeting the Muslim Filipinos for the occasion. Islam prescribes silent celebration of the Prophet’s birth, prescribing only solemn prayers without fanfare.

The Amas National High Schools and the Amas Central Elementary school seemed “discriminatory” for not observing Islamic holidays, yet requiring Muslim students to contribute money for purchase of lanterns and other paraphernalia for celebration of Christmas, Muslim parents said.

They said each of their student children was required to contribute P500 for such purpose at the elementary school. Concerned classroom teachers and school officials claim that such contribution is “voluntary,” but the problem usually arose during their grading period when non-cooperating Muslim students were given failing marks.

Secretary Briones and other higher authorities “should end this vicious cycle of discrimination,” the parents said.

Ali Macabalang

Ali Macabalang, Senior Correspondent of The Manila Bulletin, Tempo newspapers and various private and government media entities in different positions, one of very few Filipino Muslim scribes that newspapers readers may have noticed their bylines in various stories on different issues.