Go beyond DepEd legalese; SOS network tells Briones in Lumad school permits’ delay

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Manila-based supporters of the network asserting for self-sustaining lumad education are beginning to flock to the camp out set by Lumad students and teachers in front of the Department of Education central office in Pasig, adding their voices to the calls for DepEd secretary Leonor Briones to condemn AFP attacks on lumad schools in Mindanao.

The Save Our Schools (SOS) Network led teachers from different Manila schools to witness an actual LitNum or literacy-numeracy class to stress the point which Briones is trying to downplay in her latest grudging statement to the press after the camp out started. “For years, lumad schools have been providing children and adults a nationalist, mass-oriented and scientific education. However, DepEd has been denying Lumad children the right to education and their right to self-determination by allowing AFP attacks on schools while at the same time refusing to grant and/or renew their permits to operate,” said SOS Network lead convener and Salinlahi secretary general Eule Rico Bonganay.

The group mentioned that the education provided by Lumad schools empower both young and old, not just to read and write, but to improve their economic status, health and defense of their ancestral land from incursions like mining and plantations. “An education that promotes and develops Lumad children’s love for their land, country and people made them deliberate targets of AFP attacks. The strength of their community to protect and defend their ancestral lands was hastened by their education,” Bonganay added.

“Gaano man kahirap, sinisikap naming mga boluntaryong guro na magpatuloy sa pagbibigay ng mapagpalayang edukasyon para sa mga batang Lumad. Tinuturuan namin sila, hindi lamang kung paano magbasa at magsulat, kundi kung paano rin ipagtatanggol ang kanilang mga karapatan bilang mga miyembro ng pambansang minorya,” said Teacher Ramel Miguel of Salugpongan Ta Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center who also experienced different forms of military harassment. Last June, Teacher Miguel together with his students were holding classes when indiscriminately fired at by members of paramilitary group Alamara for five consecutive days.

Reacting to Secretary Briones’ claim that her ministerial process of permitting schools to operate is non-discriminatory as long as Lumad schools submit the prerequisites, SOS Network Mindanao spokesperson Rius Valle countered that lumad schools have submitted the realistic basic minimum documents based on the existing realities of Lumad communities. He added that the DepEd is imposing layer upon layers of impossible standards that do not match the actual situation and needs of Lumad communities, including electrical wiring plans where grid power do not feed into their villages.

On the other hand, DepEd’s former secretary Armin Luistro issued Memorandum Order 221 in 2013 which enabled the military to enter and occupy schools and interfere in academic activities supposedly as part of their counter insurgency operations.

“Despite many protests in Mindanao that was periodically marched from Mindanao to Manila, the DepEd persisted in upholding the memorandum even as killings of teachers and students by paramilitary groups and their military handlers occurred frequently and bombings have escalated after President Duterte commanded the military to bomb and destroy lumad schools,” added Valle.

Two days before the commemoration of Universal Children’s Day on November 20, the group urged Sec. Briones to hold a dialogue with them and address the issue of military attacks on Lumad schools in Mindanao. “Her career in civic advocacy that raised her profile as a stickler for social and economic rights are now all a bad memory as she seems to become a willing tool in closing down Lumad schools in Mindanao. She can salvage her last remaining posturing for human rights if she grants the permit and recognize lumad schools, scrap DepEd Memorandum 221 and noninterference with Lumad’s way of sustaining their own schools and self-determined paths to development,” Valle concluded. ###

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