"Making Positive Change Happen in ARMM Education" - blog by Chevening Alumna Maisara Latiph
My being a lawyer is not an accident, it was a dream come true. I later became a government lawyer at the Office of the Solicitor General. As State Solicitor my function largely involved defending and protecting public interest. These demand drafting pleadings and appearing in appellate courts. I have taken much pride in my work as a Solicitor with the values of integrity in advancing public interests.

While lawyering is my profession, my passion is education. Being an educator had never been a dream; I discovered my passion just ten years ago when I and other friends established an Elementary School in an underprivileged community in Quiapo, Manila.

Lately, I was fortunate to pursue my passion. In January 2012, my husband persuaded me to join and support the 16-month transition government of Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, which seeks to reform the governance in the region. He had confidence in me that I am capable of making greater impact in ARMM’s education sector. It was a challenge and a very difficult decision to make. My passion prevailed and I became part of the Reform Team of Department of Education-ARMM.

I know that serving this region involved a lot of sacrifice on my part and my family having lived in Metro-Manila all my life, I am aware of the security risks that I was about to undertake when I chose to became part of the Reform Team.

I became a part of a team responsible for nearly a million children and supervising 22,000 teachers in a region situated in a conflict area. The five provinces are the poorest in the country and at the bottom of every item in the Human Development Index. Ironically, these statistics inspire me to work harder. That there is greater opportunity to change and to make positive impact on the education of our children.

For the first time in ARMM, I was able to launch National Qualifying Exams for School Heads for more than 2,000 principals, capability-training for District Supervisors, implemented fully the K+12 Program, and implement an open and functional Personnel and Selection Board based purely on merit and fitness.

I had the opportunity to engage with students, teachers, head teachers and supervisors to make positive change. It meant improving a bureaucracy that for 22 years lacked the bedrock of meritocracy. Still, our team and OIC Regional Governor Mujiv Hataman were very optimistic that we can do it. The momentum for change was already gathering strength, and I am very happy that I am part of it.

This had been one of the best turning point of my career finding that working for the betterment of my fellow Muslims in Mindanao was one of the best public service I can ever give to the country because they are the most in need.

My experience in the University of Manchester as a Chevening Scholar has deepened my ideas on public service and strengthened my values of integrity and excellence. Studying there with exposure to education institutions, its policy, its management and its leadership together with the degree of Masters in School Improvement and Leadership had given me valuable wisdom and knowledge in my current position in ARMM.

It taught me that leadership matters in a fragile region in ARMM, my experience is that, in educational sector, no one will follow you out of rhetoric. I learned that as a high-level education manager, diploma does not matter. It is leadership that matters. It is walking the talk. It is being authentic in pursuing educational policy. And this has been my guiding principle ever since. The most important aspect of leadership is getting along with stakeholders through collaboration and shared leadership. Decision-making is shared and distributed to the stakeholders who are the prime beneficiary of the reform initiative.

These are powerful life lessons because I am accountable to get results. This involves giving inspiration and motivation to thousands of teachers and head teachers and their supervisors to improve schools and performance of nearly one million children.

My confidence is brought about by engagement with our stakeholders in ARMM and applying the lessons and ideas I have learned during my scholarship to improve our education amidst a very challenging context. Now, I can proudly say that I have been part of something very meaningful, noble and bigger and that is positively changing the lives of my people in ARMM especially students, teachers and principals and in giving them hope that things will become better under our leadership and we are laying the groundwork for the educational foundations of next generations of Bangsamoro children

Atty Maisara C. Dandamun-Latiph is currently working at the State Solicitor Office of the Solicitor General and is also a Member of the Education Reform Team of DepEd-ARMM. She completed her Chevening Scholarship in 2007 with a Med in Educational Leadership and School Improvement at the University of Manchester.
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