OVER 1,000 students stand to be deprived of education after a Department of Education (DepEd)-Davao official ordered the closure of the lumad schools operated by the Salugpungan Ta ‘TanuIgkanugon Community Learning Center (STTICLC) in Talaingod town.
The closure of the lumad schools was recommended by Davao del Norte Schools Division Superintendent Josephine Fadul.
In her May 12 letter to the DepEd-Davao Director Alberto Escobarte, the temporary closure of the schools had the backing of the Talaingod Tribal Council of Elders.
"Daghan estudyante ang wala pa ka-enrol sa probinsiya tungod lang sa order na ipasarado tanan mga eskwelahan na ginatuohan nila na nagasuporta sa communist movement. Naa pa'y hulga na dili na jud makaskwela ang mga lumad kay ipa sarado na jud for good ning mga skwelahan (Many students failed to enroll because of the closure order based on claims that the schools support the communist movement. Thre is the threat that the children will forever not have a school)," said Ruis Valle, spokesperson for the Save Our Schools (SOS) Network.
A grade six student Jinky Malibato of the MISFI Academy said she fears that she might not able to graduate elementary due to the closure of all the lumad schools.
"Nanghinaot mi na makapadayon mi og eskwela karon tuiga (We hope we can continue our schooling this year)," she added.
Ronie Garcia, admin officer of the STTICLC, said the faculty and members of the learning center questioned the order made by the DepEd official.
He added that the staff of the learning center has the right to be informed and undergo consultations with the DepEd and the community concerning the welfare of the schools and its children.
"Fadul seems quick to undetermine the process and carries out a decision based on their meeting with the Regional Intelligence Committee, a body which we do not recognize as having a legitimate voice and decision-making for the indigenous children in Talaingod town," Garcia said.
STTICLC disputes that there is an order from Talaingod Municipal Council of Tribal Leaders to close their schools, Garcia said that the Salugpungan Ta ‘TanuIgkanugon is a member of the council and it has not received any information about the order.
Garcia said Fadul's decision smacks of indifference and one-sidedness to the concerns of the STTICLC on harassments from the military, adding they had raised their complaints on serious cases of military encampment in its schools and interrogation of teachers and students to the point of disrupting the function of the school.
"We find it ironic that Fadul has kept her silence on this matter, and yet now she comes out with a decision that favor only the side of the military by giving them a role as 'para-teachers' for the indigenous children," he said, adding that "such decision shows her ignorance of the national laws and international decree that uphold the right to education."