The real situation in Lumad schools, according to two volunteers

The real situation in Lumad schools, according to two volunteers

Indigenous people have long fought bloody battles for their rights, and education is as much as their right as it is with any other Filipino.

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.

Students at ALCADEV line up for the flag ceremony before starting their classes.

At its core, a Lumad school aims to provide education to the youth of Lumad communities. They have been organized, particularly because the government fails to provide accessible and quality education to the Lumad. Nearby DepEd schools are unreliable because there are not enough teachers and facilities. Contrary to what the government says, they do not breed rebels. They teach formal classes in English, Math, Science, Values, Social Studies, Filipino, and History, and also integrate agriculture in the curriculum. “Our curriculum is based on DepEd’s K to 12 IP education guidelines and is designed to be critical culture-sensitive. All allegations that Salugpongan schools are NPA schools are untrue,” says Karl.

 

[READ: SYAG: The Lumad continues to bear the brunt of intensified militarization ]

 

Lumad communities primarily have agriculture as their primary source of livelihood, and Lumad schools include agriculture in their curriculum so that students learn how to farm. These schools are born out of collective effort from all the members of the community, and they aim to be as self-sufficient and self-reliant as possible — they harvest their own food and build schools out of their own resources. Graduates often become the teachers for the younger generations. 

 

Instead of treating these schools as partners for the improvement of the education system, the government continues to vilify them, leading to bloodbaths in the communities, causing fear and trauma for everyone. 

Lumad communities primarily have agriculture as their primary source of livelihood, and Lumad schools include agriculture in their curriculum so that students learn how to farm.

Instead of treating these schools as partners for the improvement of the education system, the government continues to vilify them, leading to bloodbaths in the communities, causing fear and trauma for everyone. 

“There’s a prevailing culture of terror. Sometimes, I can’t sleep at night because I can hear footsteps going around our building,” Karl shares. 

When martial law was declared in Mindanao in 2017, the number of attacks on Lumad schools grew at an alarming rate. Bomb threats frightened the parents, resulting in lesser enrollees. Classes had to be suspended because students and teachers had to relocate to safer places. Members of the community were shot for even just harvesting from their farms. The Talaingod campus in Davao del Norte suffered the most. They were attacked with aerial bombs and indiscriminate firing, forcing them to close and relocate.

 

“I was ashamed when I learned why my students were absent. Apparently, they were fetching the dead bodies of their relatives that were shot dead by the military.” 

 

 

Chad recalls a time when he got mad that a lot of his students were absent. “I was ashamed when I learned why. Apparently, they were fetching the dead bodies of their relatives that were shot dead by the military.” 

Violations to human rights, frequent militarizations, and lack of access to basic needs hinder a lot of day-to-day school activities in both Salugpongan and ALCADEV schools. The Save our Schools Network, a group of non-government organizations that aim to uphold children’s rights to education, and protect these Lumad schools has documented over a hundred cases of military harassment and attacks to the schools and its personnel. The military continues to harass and intimidate the Lumad community with illegal arrests, encampments, extrajudicial killings, bombings, and even food blockades.

As the government continues to displace these communities, education is often sacrificed for safety. And yet these Lumad schools continue to be at the forefront of social change for the Lumad. Providing relevant education that is nationalistic and pro-people gives the Lumad an opportunity to better themselves, allowing them to protect their rights as Filipinos, and moreso, as human beings.

“An important aspect of ALCADEV is its human rights education. Through this, the Lumad youth learns to defend their civil and political rights, and most especially their ancestral lands. With this, they could now speak about the injustices done against them by the military. They could no longer be fooled by any deceptive tactics to grab their lands. They could now stand against any attack to their democratic rights,” says Chad.

 

Providing relevant education that is nationalistic and pro-people gives the Lumad an opportunity to better themselves, allowing them to protect their rights as Filipinos, and moreso, as human beings. 

 

 

In an ideal world, where the government is truly working towards a better society, the Lumad would not live their lives in fear. Education would be their right, as much as it is every other Filipino’s, and their right to self-determination would be recognized. But we live in a world where the powers that hold the government instill terror in those who are powerless, and we are left with no choice but to fight until we are all free. Fostering a culture of hope within children who have seen what real terror is, is what these schools strive for. Real change can only be achieved if we are united in resisting against oppression and exploitation. We are not free until everyone is free.

 

Support the Lumad schools by donating or volunteering. Visit the ALCADEV and Salugpongan websites to know how more.

Tags:
#politics

Share this:

FacebookTwitterEmailGoogle+