Art by Sam Bumanlag
Photos courtesy of ALCADEV
On July 13, 2019, news broke that the Department of Education (DepEd) ordered the closure of 55 Salugpongan schools in Surigao, accusing them of turning children into rebels. Despite abiding by DepEd’s Indigenous Peoples Education guidelines, the schools have been subject to criticism by the department, following a report that they are being used as a front for the recruitment of National People’s Army (NPA).
Salugpongan a’Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center Inc., or Salugpongan, is one of the many Lumad schools in the country. Together with the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development Inc. (ALCADEV), they form the biggest networks of Lumad schools is Mindanao, catering to the education of Lumad children and their communities.
The lives of the indigenous people face constant threat of violent militarizations, and these schools provide an avenue for the children to be educated — for the Lumad community to progress from oppression.
President Duterte has repeatedly threatened to bomb these schools. In a span of six months, they’ve experienced over a hundred cases of military attacks — violations that are legitimized under the government’s “Oplan Kapayapaan.”
We talked to Lumad school volunteers Karl Butalid and Chad Booc to get a better idea of the situation of the Lumad schools in Mindanao. Karl is an Anthropology graduate from UP Mindanao. After working for one semester as a teacher in Salugpongan, he now works in the Educators Development Institute of the Lumad schools, where he helps train future teachers, and develop the curriculum for Lumad schools. Chad graduated with a degree in Computer Science in UP Diliman, and volunteers as a teacher at ALCADEV.
They tell us how the closure has affected communities, and the importance of education for indigenous people.
A typical day in Salugpongan starts at 4 a.m., with students up and about the grounds doing their assigned tasks. By 6 a.m., they gather for a flag ceremony, followed by classes that would end at 4 p.m. Dinner is at 6 p.m., and the hours after that are alloted for school work. For Chad in ALCADEV, days are almost similar. Waking up at the crack of dawn, tending to gardens and plants. Formal classes take up most of the day, and homework is done after dinner. Their days are packed with stories of everyday struggles, folklore, games, and music. There may be quarrels here and there, rowdy students running around, just like a typical school — but these communities struggle with more than just exams and hectic schedules.