“I love my law degree, but, for now, in this kind of situation, the students need me more. I can’t turn my back on them. Lawyering can wait. For now this is absolutely the right thing to do.”
Cotabato City – It’s usually that a lawyer who just passes the Bar Examination can’t wait to plunge into the legal nuts and bolts and put years of hard work and diligence to hands-on practice.
But not in the case of Atty. Aina Sania Alauya-Bayanan.
Aina, 30, as she is popularly known in her community, is from Marawi City, like many others a displaced resident because of the ongoing fighting between soldiers and lawless elements now on its 11th week.
While she was taking up law, Atty. Aina was a full-time science teacher at Marawi City National High School.
Although she could now look for another job that is more closely aligned with her new profession, Atty. Aina has chosen to continue teaching in one of the makeshift schools for Marawi “bakwits” (colloquial term for internally displaced persons, or ‘those who have evacuated’) in the town of Saguiaran.
“It’s very challenging, but it’s rewarding,” Atty. Aina said.
Saguiaran, 11 kilometers away from the battle zone is one of the municipalities that host thousands of internally displaced persons.
Atty. Aina took her oath before the Supreme Court magistrates in Manila on May 22, a day before the hostilities broke out. “Ang saya saya ko pa nun, kasi finally lawyer na ako – nagbunga din ang pagsisikap at pinaghirapan ko (I was so happy that day, that all my perseverance and hardship had finally paid off),” Atty. Aina said.
The next day, while still in Manila, Atty. Aina grappled with mixed emotions after learning that a group of armed individuals had begun spreading chaos in Marawi.
Two days after the conflict started in Marawi, Aina signed the Roll of Attorneys in Manila.
“Ang hirap maging masaya dahil sa sitwasyon, my parents that time were in Marawi ang hirap, sobra (It was not easy to feel happy. My parents were mired in the conflict zone. It was so very difficult),” she said at the time of her signing as a new lawyer.
She couldn’t even smile, knowing her family was in danger and her hometown had been plunged into s shooting war. “Buti na lang din kasama ko ang dalawa kong anak nung pumunta ako sa Manila (It was good I had brought my two children along to Manila),” she added.
“Dahil pasukan na, at pwede kaming i-deploy sa Iligan, mas pinili ko sa Saguiaran magturo, kasi mas nangangailangan sila ng serbisyo namin (Even though we could be deployed to Iligan, I chose to serve at Saguiaran, where I felt the unmet need for educating the children is greater),” Atty. Aina said.
Even during times of crisis, parents do, still, give priority to the education of their children, as it will help improve the prospects of recovery after the conflict.
In the neighboring municipalities, the challenges in schools include overcrowded classrooms and the lack of teachers.
Still, the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Education Department continues to exert efforts to help the displaced learners by expediting the delivery of education.
The Department is operating 11 Temporary Learning Spaces as alternative schools in six municipalities with 3,289 school children and 122 teachers.
Teaching over Law
Atty. Aina acknowledged that remaining a teacher at this time is a difficult decision to make, but underscored that it gives a measure of psychic reward.
“I love my law degree, but, for now, in this kind of situation, ngayon ako mas kailangan ng mga estudyante, kaya hindi ko sila basta pwedeng iwan sa ere (the students need me more, and I can’t turn my back on them),” she said.
“It’s absolutely the right thing to do,” she added.
Atty. Aina was a scholar of the ARMM scholarship program, “Empowering the Bangsamoro Region through Active Community Engagements”.
She was in the first batch that took the three-day Teachers Assessment and Competency Examination given by the ARMM’s Education Department in 2014 and received an appointment as Secondary School Teacher I, in 2015.
“My lawyering can wait. For now this is what I need to do.”
In Saguiran school
Atty. Aina is teaching four classes at Saguiaran National High School, with about 60 students per classroom. “The low salary is no big deal. I am also a bakwit, like my students.”
She shared that it’s harder to teach students in this situation because they are among the most affected by the conflict.
“I try to create an environment where my students can feel, at ease, comfortable and not sad, mahirap na ang buhay kasi wala na silang uuwian na bahay (life is not easy when you have no home to return to),” she said.