Save Our Schools Network (SOS Network) expresses solidarity with the struggling indigenous communities of Mindanao, who despite threats of military harassment and rights violations with the last stretch of the implementation of Aquino’s Oplan Bayanihan, are set to start school year 2016-2017 with high hopes and strong determination.
In a press conference held today at the University of the Philippines – Diliman, the SOS Network reported that about 5,100 Lumad learners and their 372 teachers are earnestly awaiting the start of classes this June. Last June 1, about 175 teachers were sent off to about 67 IP schools of the Salugpongan Community Learning Center and Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation, Inc. (MISFI) in Southern Mindanao and other neighboring regions. A number of newly-established schools are also set to start operating this school year all over Mindanao.
“There is nothing more inspiring than the resolve of these Lumad children, their families and communities. Despite having experienced multitude of violations wreaked by military personnel – encampments in their schools and communities, threat and harassment, and even the killing of their school’s administrators and leaders – here they are pursuing their humble but noble aspiration to learn and work towards the betterment of their communities,” expressed Reina Requioma, SOS Network Spokesperson.
Despite the good news, SOS Network remains fretful as there are reports that some schools will not be able to resume their operations due to military presence within or near communities. As a result, over 1,000 students will be conducting their classes in makeshift classrooms at the Haran compound in Davao and Tandag Sports Complex in Surigao del Sur. They form part of over 4,000 individuals who have been residing in these evacuation centers since last year.
With the opening of classes, the SOS Network calls on the authorities to ensure the safe return of the students and teachers to their respective schools and their undisrupted classes.
“Indeed, change should come for our distressed indigenous peoples! We are urging President-elect Rodrigo Duterte to order the pull-out of all AFP personnel in communities and schools and facilitate the safe return of all displaced Lumad. Needless to say, we will remain steadfast in our goal to ensure that these Lumad children enjoy their right to education, together with their families residing in communities free from AFP atrocities” Requioma ended. ###