First graduate of Australia’s in-country scholarship program hopes to promote peace in Mindanao

May 14, 2013 - Tu Alfonso, the first of the 100 awardees of Australia's in-country scholarship program (ICSP) to graduate, received his Master in Development Management at the Asian Institute for Management (AIM) in Makati City. Tu (center) is joined by his women colleague

Alfoso Tu
Tu Alfonso, the first of the 100 awardees of Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade's in-country scholarship program (ICSP) to graduate, received his Master in Development Management at the Asian Institute for Management (AIM) in Makati City. Tu (center) is joined by his women colleague

“Most of the victims of the war are the Moro, and it’s painful to just watch my brothers and sisters suffer and not do anything. Eight years ago, I helped form the United Youth for Peace and Development (UNYPAD); I did it because of  the oppression, because of the depressed families…” Tu shared.

Tu is currently the National Vice President for Internal Affairs of UNYPAD, a nationwide Moro-led youth organisation based in Mindanao. As the Vice President, he handles programs such as conflict management and rehabilitation. When Tu first heard of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in-country scholarship program (ICSP) from his colleagues at UNYPAD, he knew right away that his organisation will benefit from the educational opportunity.

“Mindanao is deprived of good education, and for the Bangsamoro to receive a scholarship–it’s a big opportunity. I immediately thought that I could use continuing education for our programs in UNYPAD; that’s what inspired me to get into the program and continue my studies.”

The Australian Government’s in-country scholarship program (ICSP) was launched in the Philippines in 2012 to complement the Australia Awards in providing additional educational opportunities to Filipinos, and support individuals, who are leaders and reformers, through posgraduate studies in Philippine academic institutions.

Recognising the need for additional aid in Mindanao, the Australian Government provided  scholarships to 100 eligible individuals from conflict-affected areas in Mindanao. Tu was awarded a slot, and he took up Master in Development Management at the Asian Institute for Management (AIM) in Makati City. For 11 months, Tu committed himself to academic work and intensive training in Manila.

“My life as an ICSP scholar had been a challenging but rewarding experience. I had to deal with my new life in the city, which is different from my life in the community. I also dealt with classmates from different backgrounds, religions, expertise and professions. I even had classmates from the military; I won’t forget the time when I was able to share my experiences as a war victim with them–that’s the beauty of the bridging leadership program that I experienced in AIM.”

Tu added: “I faced the challenges head on because, for me, receiving the diploma is very important–it’s a rare opportunity for Mindanaoans. My diploma is a symbol that I finished the program, that I surivived the challenge; my diploma gives me strength. ”

Tu received his diploma last February when he finished his master’s degree at AIM. He was the first of the 100 ICSP scholars who graduated. Tu did not let his educational opportunity go to waste; he devoted his thesis in strengthening UNYPAD as an organisation, particularly in programs on sustaining peace management and attaining peace and development in conflict-affected areas.

“This educational opportunity is not just for me, it’s for the community. The value of UNYPAD’s programs is reflected in its impact on the community, and if our programs are strengthened, the community will defitnely benefit from it,” said Tu. “Our ulitmate goal is to unite the Bangsamoro Filipino youth because they are our hope, our future who can transform our nation.”

“I encourage my colleagues in UNYPAD and in other organisations to continue their education. It’s important for the Bangsamoro youth to be prepared, to have the right skills and knowledge, and to be empowered with quality education so that we will be in the best position to make positive transformations.”

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