Educators decry closure recommendation for Talaingod schools

June 5, 2015

by Educators' Forum for Development

5 June 2015 | It is anti-development as it disregards the indigenous people’s efforts to set up their own schools and exercise their right to self-determination

Educators’ Forum for Development (EFD), a network of teachers and academics committed to transformative education, expressed grave concern over a recent recommendation by a DepEd official for the temporary closure of several Lumad schools in Davao. This is a brazen violation of the inalienable right to education of the Manobo children of Talaingod, Davao del Norte, the group said. It is anti-development as it disregards the indigenous people’s efforts to set up their own schools and exercise their right to self-determination, the group added.

The Salugpungan Ta’Tanu Igkagnunon [Manobo term for ‘unity of people to defend the ancestral land’] Community Learning Center (STTICLC) schools were established by the Talaingod communities to address the absence of basic education facilities there, thus have provided learning opportunities to the children. The STTICLC schools are DepEd Central Office- accredited through the Indigenous Peoples Education Office.

In a letter, the superintendent of DepEd Division of Davao del Norte recommended to the regional director the temporary closure of the schools pending DepEd’s investigation, reinspection and reevaluation “in terms of performance in providing efficient, quality and relevant educational services consistent with DepEd and National Educational policies, plans and standards.” The intention is suspect, however, according to EFD, as the DepEd official further requested permission to create a public high school instead, “utilizing military personnel as para-teachers”. “This is an outright disregard of the Lumad’s complaints and campaign against the intensification of militarization of their communities and schools,” the EFD said.

Military troops belonging to the Philippine Army’s 1003rd brigade have allegedly sown terror in the STTICLC schools, including encampment in school facilities, lingering about school premises while classes are going on, and outright harassment of teachers and students on suspicion that the school is supporting Communitst rebels. The Talaingod Manobos were also forced to evacuate to Davao City last year due to massive military operations.

“The intention is obvious. It is not unknown that Talaingod is rich in mineral resources, and large-scale mining companies have pending mining applications with the government, thus the deployment of military troops even in schools. This is unlawful and should be stopped. Instead of being instrumental in human rights violations, the government should perform its primary duty of providing basic education facilities in far-flung areas,” the EFD said.