MANILA, Philippines — Nearly 200,000 school children in Zamboanga City have missed classes due to fierce fighting between Moro National Liberation Front rebels and government forces, the Department of Education said Tuesday.
All 171 elementary schools and 34 high schools in Zamboanga City remained closed since the local government suspended classes in the entire city last week.
The city-wide class suspension has affected around 140,000 elementary students and 48,000 high school students, the DepEd reported.
DepEd said its division office in Zamboanga City has mobilized teachers, guidance counselors and senior Boy Scouts leaders to provide psychological aid to students and teachers who were displaced by the fighting and forced evacuation.
Since September 9, the military has engaged armed MNLF members who occupied five densely populated coastal barangays in Zamboanga City while using civilians as human shields.
The rebels, who belonged to the MNLF faction headed by founding MNLF chairman and former Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao governor Nur Misuari, were reportedly thwarted from laying siege on the predominantly Christian-populated city in protest of the government’s ongoing peace talks with the rival group Moro Islamic Liberation Front.