To some people, the seven-classroom facility used by elementary school students in the Muslim-dominated southern Philippine village of Bualan in the town of Pikit is just a building — though evidently a well-built one.

But for the students in Pikit — whose education is occasionally interrupted by fighting between Muslim insurgents and government forces in this part of Mindanao Island — the building, erected two years ago with some $100,000 in Japanese government aid, is a launchpad for realizing their ambitions.

"This new classroom means a lot to me," said 12-year-old Micheil Abellanida, a sixth-grader with dreams of becoming a flight attendant. "I like to attend classes all the more, and I can learn a lot more because I can listen well to my teachers.