Save our Schools to Duterte: Make education accessible to Lumad
MANILA, Philippines – Child rights group Save Our Schools Network (SOS) urges the incoming administration of President-elect Rodrigo Duterte to provide accessible education to indigenous children.
“We are hopeful that the new administration will be able to help Lumad children continue their education, not in evacuation sites but in their communities where they would be able to return safe and sound," said Rius Valle, spokesperson of SOS.
SOS is a network of child focused non-government organizations (NGOs), church-based groups, and others who advocate for children's right to education.
In June, about 1,000 Lumad students in Mindanao will attend classes in evacuation centers. They are afraid to go back to their communities due to the presence of soldiers and paramilitary groups that are allegedly implementing the final leg of the government's counter-insurgency campaign Oplan Bayanihan, according to SOS.
Oplan Bayanihan sought to end the 44 years of communist rebellion in the country. It replaced the Arroyo administration’s Oplans Bantay Laya 1 and 2, which were blamed for widespread human rights violations.
Lumad students from all over Surigao del Sur, along with their families who were displaced by alleged "militarization", will begin the school year in makeshift classes at the Tandag Sports Complex in Surigao and the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP)-Haran compound in Davao City.
Meanwhile, teachers aren't exempted from harassment. According to SOS, at least 5 teachers from the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (ALCADEV) and Tribal Filipino Program of Surigao del Sur (TRIFPSS), both alternative schools, were charged with alleged human trafficking cases.
In 2015, ALCADEV’s school director was killed along with two Lumad leaders by a paramilitary group prompting the displacement of 1,000 villagers from Surigao del Sur.
Valle emphasized the damage done by Oplan Bayanihan to Lumad children.
“The government’s counter-insurgency has targeted and wrecked Lumad’s lives and communities, but their children have shown resistance by continuing their education," said Valle.
The SOS said that the Lumad are asking the new administration to "pull out military and paramilitary troops" from their communities. – Tessa Barre/Rappler.com