PANTAR, Philippines (Reuters) - Children evacuated from the Philippines town of Marawi, where fighting has raged since Islamist militants seized it two weeks ago, are drawing pictures of their harrowing experiences as a form of therapy.
Some 300 children were taken to the village of Pantar, just to the north of Marawi where government forces have used ground and air strikes against the fighters linked to Islamic State.
Teachers at Pantar’s elementary school said they were providing counseling to the Marawi children and encouraging them to express themselves through art.
"We had the children draw so they can express what is in their hearts. What they are feeling, so the teachers can see what is inside them," said school principal Anisah Paligawad.
A picture drawn by one girl showed women falling to the ground after being shot by "ISIS" fighters. In another scene, a woman holds a child by the hand and calls out for help as bombs fall from warplanes flying overhead.
"This is where we live. These are people leaving. This is a plane dropping bombs," said the girl as she explained the images in her pencil drawing.
Other drawings included messages of hope that the fighting would end soon so the children could go home.
"I'm really sad with what's happening. I hope to get back to Marawi with my family," said one boy.
Most of the residents of the town of 200,000 have left and officials say 1,545 civilians have been rescued from the fighting. The civilian death toll is estimated at between 20 and 38.
The elementary school plans to erect tents to provide additional teaching space for the students while they wait for the fighting to end.
"For now, we plan to read them feel-good stories like myths, history and traditional stories so they can cope and forget what happened to them,” said teacher Nasrollah Sultan.
(Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales, writing by Karishma Singh, editing by Darren Schuettler)