In the war zone of Indanan, Sulu where news is scarce and many residents live in fear, a small group of 5th and 6th grade journalists at Bunot Elementary School have the courage and passion to tell their community’s story via their own Internet blogs. Sometimes the stories are fun and encouraging for a community struggling against difficult odds – no books, clean water and often no electricity in their school. Yet, teachers, school nurses and students trek to school each day looking to learn something new.
The Lanking Blog was created in 2016 in the small school’s complex of 151 students and 6 teachers, including their journalism mentor, are located along a paved country road. During recent military operations to rescue hostages held by extremists in the surrounding hillsides, the school was temporarily suspended when close to 300 families fled from neighboring villages and created a camp in the school building and surrounding schoolyard.
Bunot Elementary is one of AAI’s adopted schools in Sulu. AAI Director Al Santoli met the children, their parents and teachers and local officials when he visited Sulu on September 7, 2016. The mission that day was to bring emergency supplies to destitute displaced families at Bunot Elementary. Members of the journalist team were in the forefront of the delegation taking photos and asking questions for a future blog. When we visited the Mayor of Indanan… you guessed it… the irrepressible little journalists were right there with the grown-ups. They were getting the story the old fashioned way, with a pen and notepad. After an event takes place, they organize an editorial meeting in a classroom to write and proofread the blog and relevant photos before posting it via a cellphone onto the internet.
As a symbol of our support for these determined new members of the “Fourth Estate,” AAI provided them with a new laptop computer and a copier-printer to enable them to print their stories to hand to fellow students, as well as enhance their computer literacy.
It is young students like the Lanking Bloggers who have the potential to transform battlefields into fields of dreams. We encourage these types of inspirational child to child communications programs that will play a transformative roll within their communities.