SOS Network demand pull-out of military troops; continual operation of Lumad schools in Mindanao

While many of the public schools all over the country are slated to start their classes today, Lumad community schools in Davao del Norte are at risk of being closed down. No other than the Department of Education (DepEd) has a hand in this violation which will deny about 2,896 Lumad children of their basic right to education.

In a protest action in front of the DepEd National Office in Pasig City, children’s rights and education advocacy group Save our Schools Network (SOS Net) condemned the agency for colluding with the military and threatening to shut down Salugpongan Ta’Tanu Igkanugon Community Learning Center and MISFI Academy schools which have been providing educational services to learners from the indigenous people’s communities in Mindanao.

DepEd Division of Davao del Norte Superintendent Josephine Fadul  in a letter dated May 12  to DepEd Region XI Director Alberto Escobarte, endorsed the closure of lumad schools and requested for permission to install a public school which will have military personnel as para-teachers.

Prior to this, intensified attacks on schools and communities in the form of vilification, threat and harassment including school encampment by military elements under the 60th and 68th IB-Philippine Army have been documented and reported to the SOS network since 2011. Thirteen new violations have transpired since January up to May of this year alone, affecting 4,309 students and 41 teachers.

Kharlo Manano, SOS lead convenor and secretary-general of Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns said that since 2011, numerous dialogues with different level officials have been pursued by students, teachers and the school administration after cases of military attacks derailed the operation of their learning institutions. “Sec. Luistro had even met with them last year, and this is his agency’s response! This is a violation of the Constitution which guarantees that the State shall provide Filipino children with all means of access to a free and quality education,” said.

Manano also noted that while Sec. Luistro and President Aquino is hell bent on defending and implementing their brainchild program K-12, a program strongly-opposed by different stakeholders, they continue to turn a blind eye to the clamor of Lumad children for access to education. “They are not K-12 ready.  Instead, what they are truly ready for is the further disenfranchisement of Lumad children’s right to education,” he added.

He said that failure of the department secretary to uphold its mandated responsibility is a proof that he is no longer fit to hold his position. “It is very evident that his stance on this issue of Lumad children’s education is no different from that of the state forces,” Manano averred.

SOS reiterated their call to immediately pull out military and para-military elements in all Lumad schools. “These schools should continue to operate and provide much-needed educational services to indigenous peoples communities, without any threat of military occupation or closure,” Manano demanded.

A simultaneous protest was also held at the Region XI office in Davao City. ###

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