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Sunday, December 3, 2023

Heroes in education

These Lumad schools have provided IPs of Mindanao a chance at quality education

To extend our celebration of National Heroes Day, in this article, I would like to commemorate women who have endlessly shown their value for both the youth and education. While our usual heroes are taught to students in school, we do not realize that students are also constantly protected and supported by everyday heroes working with the youth and the education sector.

Sarah Elago was the Representative of Kabataan Partlylist from June 2016-2022.

During her two terms in the House of Representatives, she was endlessly attacked.

She has experienced being the topic of harmful disinformation and the target of red-tagging.

Yet she has stood persistently with the youth.

She was the principal author of the Comprehensive Free Public Higher Education Bill.

This bill allows students in public tertiary schools to be free of tuition.

Through the bill, the government has been tasked to pay for these students’ college education. Aside from her lawmaking responsibilities, Sarah Elago is also known to show support in student-initiated mobilizations, either wearing the classic Kabataan Partylist shirt or a modern Filipiniana.

Because of Elago’s steadfast commitment to the youth, she received the One Young World Politician of the Year Award in 2020.

Another woman who is currently acting as a trailblazer in the House of Representatives is France Castro, now the representative of ACT Teachers in the Congress.

Castro became a legislator after being a public school teacher.

In 2020, she asserted the Department of Education reconsider their distance learning policy.

She said in less fortunate areas, without proper learning materials, forcing schools to open would sacrifice quality education.

Castro has also been at the forefront of fighting for teachers’ rights.

As an educator herself, she has been fighting for a livable salary increase for public school teachers.

As a party list representative. Castro stands tall in challenging Vice President and Secretary of Education Sara Duterte on many issues, including in the legality and propriety of using intelligence funds in Department of Education.

Finally, when we discuss youth and education, we cannot forget the contributions of the Lumad schools.

Lumad schools offer both the usual subjects such as Math, Science, Social Studies, Language, and History, as well as a subject tied to their indigenous culture, Agriculture.

These schools have provided IPs of Mindanao a chance at quality education.

In fact, some of these Lumad students who have finally graduated are now off to college in UP Diliman.

This would not be possible without the Lumad school teachers who have chosen to volunteer. One of them is Jeany Hayahay, more popularly known as Teacher Rose.

Teacher Rose just received the 2023 Front Line Defenders Award for Human Rights Defenders at Risk in Dublin, Ireland.

Another Lumad school volunteer, Meggie Nolasco, was the executive director of the Salugpongan Community Learning Center.

Despite the attacks against these educators, they have remained strong in the fight for the right to education of the Lumad youth.

There are many other Lumad teachers and Lumad schools advocates I know, especially from the Save our Schools Network.

Meeting Rose and Meggie and working with the Lumad schools changed my life permanently, making me commit to defend and rebuild those schools.

Indeed, these schools are not only essential, but they provide maximum benefit for indigenous children in Mindanao. Someone articulated a justification for the schools and I adopt her words:

“Protecting Lumad children, their schools, and teachers is important for preserving their cultural heritage, ensuring access to education, protecting the human and collective rights of their communities, and preventing exploitation from outside economic and political interests.

“Lumad schools are critical for cultural preservation.

“Indeed, Lumad children are the future carriers of their community’s culture, traditions, and values. Protecting their schools and teachers ensures that they receive an education that reflects their heritage and identity.

“Lumad schools are necessary so indigenous children in Mindanao have access to education. The reality is that Lumad children often face difficulties in accessing quality education, including lack of resources and limited infrastructure.

“Protecting their schools and teachers helps ensure that they receive the education they need to succeed and reach their full potential.

“All children have the right to be protected from harm, to be secure in their homes and communities.

“They have basic constitutional rights – of expression, association, and assembly.

“Protecting Lumad children, their schools, and teachers helps ensure that their human rights are upheld and respected.

“Children become more assertive and articulate about their internationally and nationally recognized rights because of what they learn in the Lumad schools.

“The experience of indigenous children and their parents in the Lumad schools changes their mindset comprehensively, rejecting patronizing or discriminatory attitudes that are the usual way outsiders relate to them.

“Instead, the Lumad schools have instilled pride in the children and parents and their communities. They are encouraged to assert their right to their ancestral lands and domains.

“They are enabled to claim their political autonomy as indigenous peoples.”

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