Conflict between armed groups and local military troops has continued to plague communities in Mindanao, Philippines. Behind the smoke and crossfire, tens of thousands of Filipinos have perished while hundreds of thousands worth of infrastructure has also been destroyed. However, what’s worse is that an invaluable amount of opportunities are forever lost in lives of innocent children, as more and more of Mindanao’s youth continue to drop out of school due to fear, to join their kin and raise arms, or worse, as they have already succumbed to the conflict.
Amidst the violence, a humble NGO in the Philippines has continued to brave against unfavourable situations, in order to reach out to the most innocent of victims in this armed conflict – the youth. Known as PeaceTech, this local NGO led by Robin Pettyfer has dedicated itself to fostering peace by giving the youth of Mindanao an opportunity to enjoy quality education, delivered with the help of technology.
Utilizing a tool as simple as Microsoft Skype, PeaceTech is able to run their Global Classroom Program, wherein they connect two classrooms together (one in Manila and another in Mindanao) via. videoconferencing to host joint classroom sessions in social studies and values education. This in turn would help bridge cultures, develop a deeper understanding between the two communities, and most of all, provide learning opportunities opening a myriad of life opportunities for both youth groups. In addition, it has helped draw away the youth in Mindanao from becoming victims or even participants in the armed conflict.
To date, PeaceTech has been able to reach out to over 527 students from both Manila and Mindanao. In addition, the Philippine Department of Education has also recently established a partnership with PeaceTech to deploy the Global Classroom Program and integrate it into the wider public high school curriculum, thus streamlining what Robin and PeaceTech begain to more public schools in the Philippines.
In line with their success through the innovative use of Skype, Robin shares “Thanks to ICT, we now can bridge Muslim and non-Muslim classrooms from Mindanao to Manila all the time.” Furthermore, Robin looks towards creating a more culturally inclusive society, saying “If we can build tolerance while students learn in school, then these young people will have a more stable future. Just imagine, if classroom videoconferencing were mainstreamed into the high school curriculum in all regions, which are divided by ignorance and prejudice!”