Save our schools: Manobo children’s wish!
“Paano kami makakapag-aral ng mapayapa at makakatulong sa aming mga magulang at komunidad, kung nariyan lagi ang presensya ng militar na nagkakampo sa aming mga paaralan? Nandito kami para humingi ng suporta , para makapagpatuloy kami sa aming pag-aaral, para manumbalik ang payapa naming pamumuhay. Hayaan ninyo kaming sumayaw sa saliw ng aming katutubong musika, hindi sa tunog ng mga bala!”
This was the sentiment 15-year-old Lando, a Manobo student of Salugpongan Ta’Tanu Igkanugon Community Learning Center, Inc. (STTICLCI), grieved out to legislators and child rights advocates who attended the Salubungan activity organized by the Save our Schools Network today at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani auditorium.
Lando, along with his 12 classmates, teacher and community leader, travelled all the way from their hometown Talaingod, Davao del Norte to Manila for a cultural caravan entitled Og Iskwela Puron (to school… I wish) which highlights their journey of hope and struggle for their right to education through a showcase of their traditional arts and culture.
Behind the colourful and spirited stage play the Teatro Salugpongan performed during the program lays the rather pain-stricken and heart-wrenching situation they face. These students, together with their community, have experienced rights violations committed by no other than the elements of the Armed Force of the Philippines (AFP).
March of this year, persisting military operations brought about military encampments in or near schools and households and other numerous human rights violations, drove them to evacuate their community for more than a month. Just this October, drunken soldiers under the 68th IBPA, who encamped not more than 50 meters away from the school, successively fired at some STTICLCI classrooms and school farm.
Madella Santiago, Save our Schools (SOS) Network spokesperson, shared her deep concern regarding the continuing military attacks on schools. “Lando’s plea is only one among many other pleas for help of lumad children. Thirty-nine (39) cases of military attacks on schools – encampment, threat and intimidation of students and teachers – have been documented by Children’s Rehabilitation Center in the areas of southern Mindanao alone. This is quite alarming as these alternative schools, borne out of the efforts of lumad organizations and support groups and aimed to provide education services for indigenous children, are under threat by the government who have long neglected them and deprived them of basic social services like health and education,” Santiago lamented.
Santiago also scored the Aquino government’s Oplan Bayanihan scheme which serves as a license for state military troops to freely wreak havoc in indigenous communities. “The indigenous peoples are constantly struggling against development aggressions like large foreign mining and plantations and their love and commitment for their yutang kabilin (ancestral land) made them enemies of the state,” continued Santiago.
As a symbolic manifestation of legislators and child rights advocates’ commitment to defend lumad children’s right to education and peaceful lives, the Manobo children donned them with “Kulintas sa Paghagit” (Necklace of Challenge) and took part in a community-dance to the rhythm of Bankakawan, an indigenous musical instrument.
Santiago reiterated the SOS Network’s call to support lumad children’s journey towards fully realizing their human rights, particularly their right to education. “We should unite to bring light on the plight of these children and their communities and compel the Aquino government to put an end to these military attacks on schools and communities. Let Lando’s plea serve not only as an inspiration, but a relentless reminder that the Lumad children’s situation demand us to take action!” stressed Santiago. ###