WITH the problems facing students and teachers during this school opening, here is a song for them, to the tune of The Twelve Days of Christmas:

On the K to 12 of Luistro, DepEd sent to me:

Twelve rooms decaying,

Eleven textbooks lacking,

Ten soldiers camping,

Nine students sleeping,

Eight rooms overcrowding,

Seven schools a flooding,

Six teachers complaining,

Five broken chairs,

Four crying kids,

Three small chalks,

Two additional years,

And a classroom under a huge tree.

Those problems poured through the news and social media the whole week, and it's pouring like the rains that come every night this June, until it flooded last Wednesday in Buhangin that stranded commuters. That would be another problem for students when floods and dengue strike again this month.

But this week, two major issues in education grabbed headlines.

First is the news that a school ran by indigenous peoples in Talaingod, Davao del Norte is ordered closed by the head of the Department of Education Davao del Norte Division Dr. Josephine Fadul. Fadul cited technicalities such as non-renewal of permits, but what was strange was her recommendation of putting up another school where soldiers would serve the indigenous children as "para-teachers."

This news was greeted with uproar from both social media and no less from the owners of the school, the Manobo group Salugpongan Ta'Tanu Igkanugon. Their reactions basically point to the twisted logic of DepEd Davao del Norte head Dr. Josephine Fadul. They point out that she fails to grasp DepEd's own program that is the National Indigenous Peoples Education Program. This program recognizes and supports lumad schools such as Salugpongan's, that helps to promote the culture and knowledge of indigenous peoples. The Salugpongan school presented permits from both the DepEd Indigenous Peoples Education Office and tribal council that granted them to operate and serve the Manobo children.

Secondly, the Salugpongan leaders cried foul on Fadul's alternative that soldiers serve as teachers. The reaction points to the Manobo community's aversion to the military that has for countless times harassed teachers and community members and forced out of their villages. For those reasons, there is now agitation from the Salugpongan and its network of NGOs that challenge the DepEd. It seems DepEd has a lot to answer to them, especially with the kind of leadership it has in the regions that fails to live to its true sense of cultivating and protecting schools that promote our indigenous and national culture.

The second news was how Education Secretary Brother Armin Luistro cried over the situation in remote Balut Island in Sarangani whom he and regional officials visited Monday during the school opening. He said he was moved by the state of poverty and the struggles of students, some of them handicapped, who have to walk for hours and ride motorcycles along risky trails just to get to school.

His reaction got a flak of reactions online. Some question the seeming naivete of an education official over the realities in the hinterlands, where schooling is a difficult task and sacrifice for students and parents-farmers. There are plenty of such stories all over Mindanao, including Talaingod, where students brave a long trek along rivers and hills, would write on pieces of leaves when no pad of paper exists, where teachers would use plywoods and cloth as blackboards, and classrooms have no electricity, roof or walls.

Such realities raise questions: Why shed tears now when this has been going on for decades? Where has all the money gone? As Luistro trumpets K to 12 with the theme of “education for all”, aren't these realities in indigenous and poor farming communities revealing that the poor are left behind by the government? Schools should help change and build our society, but I'm afraid those who administer the schools should make a change in perspectives first.

tyvelez@gmail.com