The Save Our Schools Network reacted to the Department of Education Region 11’s statement that bakwit schools in UCCP Haran will not be recognized, saying it fails to address the problem of schools displaced due to militarization.
This comes after DepEd 11 spokesperson Jeinelito Atillo said they will not recognize the bakwit school of Salugpongan Community Learning Center for their displaced grade 6 and 7 classes of Nasilaban and Dulyan, Talaingod as they are held outside of the areas of their school permits.
SOS network spokesperson Rius Valle said the DepEd should not just look at the mere technicality of the permits of Salugpongan, but should rather address why Lumad schools are being driven away from Talaingod in the first place.
“If we have to be technical about it, what about the violations made by the military against international humanitarian law and the rights of the children? This is the reason why these Lumad children are in bakwit schools because the soldiers and paramilitary are encamped in the campus and padlocking them, and DepEd need to act on this,” Valle said.
The SOS urged DepEd to investigate instead these cases of attacks on schools which have been reported to them by Salugpongan administrators and other Lumad schools.
Valle believed this is within the mandate of DepEd to enforce the protection of schools and ensure the right to education of the Lumad school children and youth.
“Rather than zeroing in on the issue of technicality, the way to address these bakwit schools is to enforce the soldiers leave the Lumad schools and communities, and disband the paramilitary, so that the Lumad schools can return,” said Valle.
Valle said that DepEd 11 has long made technicalities an issue. On 2015, a MISFI Academy school was forcibly closed in Kapalong, Davao del Norte and evacuated to Haran due to attacks by Alamara. Yet the DepEd ignored the dangers by urging the Lumad evacuees to return to their communities and continue their schooling in areas specified by their permits.
He said the DepEd should weigh in on the cases of attacks on Salugpongan schools and other Lumad schools. He noted the case of Salugpongan student Obello Bay-ao, 17, who was shot dead by an Alamara member in Nasilaban in September 5, 2017. In another instance, Salugpongan teacher Rafael Miguel survived a gun attack by the same Alamara member in 2017.
Valle reminded DepEd that part of their mandate is to ensure the rights of the children to education, and they should protect schools from attacks or occupation from armed state groups.
Valle also said Atillo’s suggestion that Salugpongan students can transfer to public schools is a quick-fix solution but fails to address the problem. He noted that public schools are far from the communities and may not fully absorb more than 600 Salugpongan students.
“We remind the DepEd that Salugpongan schools and other Lumad schools ran by NGOs and religious groups are their partners in implementing their education program for the Lumad. There should be no competition.