Traumatized children resume classes in Zambo

Nov. 06, 2013

Davao Today

Zamboanga City – Some 230 school children and 35 mothers who evacuated following September’s standoff here expressed fears of returning to their villages with the continued presence of Philippine Marines and threats of fresh armed encounter with Moro fighters.

The survivors from the heavily-burned village of Santa Catalina, revealed their anxieties and trauma to a group of child counselors of Children’s Rehabilitation Center (CRC), on Tuesday at Don Gregorio Evangelista Memorial School.

Children, aged 11 to 14, said they were “angry” at government forces for burning their houses and stealing properties in the midst of the standoff.

Santa Catalina, along with four other barangays, was heavily damaged as houses and buildings were burned down.

Davao Today earlier reported evacuees who claimed that soldiers “deliberately burned” structures to lure out MNLF members in hiding.

CRC spokesperson Jacquiline Ruiz said there should be measures to continue the counselling of children who, she said, are suffering from trauma.

“Long-term counselling is needed because it will take a long time for them to overcome their trauma and fears. Not all children can cope, some are still afraid of the slightest noise, from fallen cabinet or things. Others who see men in fatigue uniforms thought there is another war,” said Ruiz.

Ruiz added that community members like parents and other stakeholders “must help rebuild their lives.”

But adults also shared they feared going back to their homes as text messages have been spreading that another clash might happen between government troops and MNLF forces who reportedly were still hiding in the city.

Some 24,000 schoolchildren were affected, while 8,000 families live in some of the 35 evacuation centers spread across the city, including the school, according to Balsa Mindanao.

Classes resumed only two months after the standoff between government troops and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) disrupted the city.

In Evangelista Memorial School, OIC Principal Aurelia Ares said the evacuation occupying their schools affected regular classes as they only resumed Tuesday.

She said during the suspension of classes due to the conflict, school teachers continued their classes at evacuation centers.

Ares said they are willing to cater to the evacuees to stay in the school campus. “It would be better to put up their tents there so that the students who were still staying in the evacuation centers could go back to school,” she said. (Earl O. Condeza/

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