DAVAO DEL NORTE—Students from Lumad communities here face bleak prospects after an education official has expressed preference for the shutdown of tribal schools in the area.
Schools Division Superintendent Dr. Josephine Fadul has recommended to Region XI Director Alberto Escobarte the shut down of three campuses of private school Salugopungan Ta Tanu Igkanunon catering to Lumad minorities in response to the position paper of the Talaingod Municipal Tribal Council that demanded the school be assessed and shut down for the allegations that these are being used as ‘fronts’ for the New People’s Army (NPA).
Fadul recommended the construction of a school in the village of Butay to be managed by the military.
“Should this request for the closure of the said schools be granted, in its stead, this Division requests permission to implement the creation of a public high school in Butay, Talaingod utilizing military personnel as para-teacher, ” Fadul said in a letter.
Meanwhile in the nearby town of Kapalong in Sitio Muling, Barangay Gupitan another school built for the Lumad children will not be available as the new school year opens next month. The paramilitary group Alamara has issued a warning to the parents against having their children enrolled in the school. The school, funded by the nonprofit group Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation, Inc. (Misfi), is the only school in Muling, a village that that can be reached after two days of walking.
The children of Muling are in Davao City, joining calls for the soldiers and the paramilitary group Alamara to vacate their school.
Apart from being absurd, Fadul’s recommendations only showed her ignorance of the law and lack of compassion for the Ata-Manobo children, an advocacy group said.
“These children had long been deprived of proper education and only because of the Salugpungan Ta Tanu Igkanugon that they were able to have a taste of how it is to get basic education. What she is doing now is an attack on the children and the schools the same schools that provided the children with education at a time when DepEd was a failure,” said Rius Valle, spokesperson of the advocacy group Save Our Schools Network.
Valle also pointed out the inefficiency of the DepEd regional office in that area, after many years of failing to put up schools or send teachers in the community.
Valle cleared that all Salugpungan Ta Tanu Igakanugon schools have been accredited by DepEd Central Office through the Indigenous Peoples Education Office. The schools’ operations are also guided by DepEd Order No. 21 that recognized private learning institutions serving tribal learners. For this, he slammed Fadul for being ignorant of the law.
“She has recommended the construction of schools and the deployment of para-teachers. How ignorant she can be to not know that soldiers are not supposed to walk into classrooms and act as teachers?” he said.
Valle said his group is looking into the possibility of filing formal complaint against Fadul.
Gabriela Representative Luzviminda Ilagan also asked the Department of Education to urgently explain the situation but to also directly intervene as classes are about to start on June 1.
“Classes are about to open a few days from now,” Ilagan said in a statement. “There are shortages in classrooms, facilities and teachers and there remains an obvious lack of schools in Lumad communities yet a local initiative to put up a tribal school is being attacked no less by officials of the DepEd like Dr. Fadul. Whatever happened to upholding the right to education?”