Lumad students, teachers camp outside DepEd
◢ Beatrice P. Puente
Around 200 Lumad students, volunteer teachers and volunteer groups have been camping in front of the Department of Education’s (DepEd) Central Office in Pasig City since November 16 to denounce militarization and killings, and to call for the issuance of their schools’ permit to operate.
“Nandito kami ngayon sa Maynila dahil ang lugar namin sa Mindanao ay highly militarized. ‘Yung mga paaralan namin ay ginawang kampo ng mga sundalo at marami na ring pinatay na mga elders namin pati estudyante,” said Leah Mae Serra, a volunteer teacher in a Lumad school.
Obello Bay-ao, a 19-year-old Lumad student, was killed by two members of the Citizen’s Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) last September 5. Bay-ao’s parents still call for justice two months hence.
Cases of indiscriminate firing were also recorded, affecting a total of 401 students and 26 teachers, according to the Save our Schools Network. “Habang nag-aaral ako, natatakot ako,” said Sarah Sullen, a grade 10 student in a Lumad learning center in Davao del Norte.
But militarization of Lumad schools only arises because it is allowed by the law, Serra said. DepEd Memorandum No. 221 released in 2013 primarily aims to protect children during armed conflict but it also allows military presence in schools.
Still, DepEd has to ensure that schools are “zones of peace” as mandated by its Department Order 44 released in 2005. “Napakaimportante [ng mga ganitong orders] para sa kaligtasan at welfare ng students, teachers and everyone else kaya dati pa namin ito ginagawa,” said DepEd spokesperson and Undersecretary. Jesus Mateo.
The Lumad camp-out has been ongoing for almost two weeks but DepEd Secretary Leonor Briones has not spoken to any of the representatives from the Lumad group. In a forum on November 28, Briones even shrugged a protest off staged by the Lumad, saying DepEd is not the right office to be put into question.
“Huwag ninyo kaming sisihin sa mga bagay na hindi naman ginawa ng DepEd. Siguro sa ibang opisina ninyo dalhin ‘yung inyong mga hinaing,” she said in the forum when asked by a Lumad volunteer teacher about the department’s stand on militarization.
Aside from their camp in DepEd, the groups have been staying since August in the International Center in UP Diliman where they put up a school for children who evacuated from their militarized communities.
Lumad schools are built in places where there are no DepEd schools as initiated by the communities with the help of volunteer groups. These schools were built to preserve Lumad culture and provide free and accessible education. However, at least 15 out of 200 Lumad schools still have no permit to operate.
“Responsibilidad nila na tugunan ang pangangailangan ng mga Lumad schools. Hindi dapat kami ‘yung nagmamakaawa na bigyan nila ng permit. Dapat ay i-recognize ng departamentong ito ang effort ng Lumad schools na hindi nila naabot,” said Rius Valle, spokesperson of the Save our Schools Network-Mindanao, a group advocating for the right of indigenous peoples to education.
To secure a permit, the Lumad need to submit a site plan where the school will be built along with the list of qualified teachers and the curriculum to be approved by the department. At present, around 2.9 million indigenous students attend 2,900 schools, according to DepEd.
The permit to operate, however, would mean nothing if classes are hindered by militarization, Valle said. DepEd Secretary Leonor Briones’ statements ensuring the safety of all schools are mere “big words” she needs to act on, he added.
“Matagal nang pinapalayas ang mga Lumad sa kanilang lupang ninuno. Matagal na silang ine-exploit at niloloko sa pagpapapirma ng kahit anong papeles,” Valle said, adding that Lumads’ rich ancestral lands are still subject to large-scale mining, logging concessions and other commercial investments. Building their own schools is a way of resisting the forms of exploitation done to them, he added.
Meanwhile, Lumad schools are important in achieving DepEd’s vision of making all Filipinos literate in the 21st century, Serra said. “Paano aabutin ‘yun[g vision] kung binobomba naman ang paaralan ng mga Lumad?” she added. ◢
Short URL: http://www.philippinecollegian.org/?p=12360