MANILA, Philippines – For the Lumad children who have set up camp at the University of the Philipppines in Diliman after conflicts displaced them from Mindanao, nothing should get in the way of education.
On Monday, August 7, they temporarily resumed classes at a “bakwit school” inside UP.
“Our classes are temporarily held here until the President vows to protect tribal schools,” Rius Valle, spokesperson of Save Our Schools (SOS) Network, said.
Early in July, a group of Lumads arrived in Quezon City from Mindanao. They are the first batch of Lakbayanis (traveling heroes), with the rest set to arrive in Metro Manila in September for the Lakbayan – an annual caravan of indigenous peoples, Moro, and peasants from different parts of the country.
An alternative learning venue for displaced indigenous people, the “bakwit school” first rose at evacuation camps in 2015 for those displaced by the magnitude 6.7 earthquake in Surigao del Norte.
Adopting the concept, the SOS Network set up a “bakwit school” for Lumad children in UP after at least 27 tribal schools in Mindanao were either reportedly burned or occupied by government troops. (READ: Lumad children appeal to Duterte to save their schools)
According to the Lumads, they have been accused of being members of the New People’s Army (NPA) just because they were taught to read, write, and count. (READ: ‘Dear Digong’: Lumad children ask Duterte to end martial law, violence)
SOS said the closure of tribal schools has affected at least 1,000 students across Mindanao.
In Mindanao, there are 222 Lumad schools opearated by religious gorups and NGOs, serving 8,251 students. According to SOS, these schools are partners of the Department of Educaton’s Indigenous People’s Education Program (IPED) that aims to combat illiteracy in the indigenous communities.
Luisito Peñaloza, head teacher of the church-run Assumption Interfaith Academy Foundation in Davao City, said the pronouncement of Presidnent Rodrigo Duterte attacking the Lumads and other indigenous peoples has terrorized students.
“I will really bomb all of them because you are operating illegally and you’re teaching children to rebel against the government,” President Rodrigo Duterte said in a press briefing after he delivered his State of the Nation Address last July 24.
Peñaloza said that the alternative learning venue in UP is open for other students “who want to observe and integrate with the indigenous people.”
“The purpose is also for people in the city to understand the culture and the reasons that drive these students to fight for their right to education,” he said. – Rappler.com