Who gains when Lumad schools are closed?
The Lumad schools are in the news again. But instead of the campaign of saving these schools from attacks, there is another group now that is now calling for their closure.
Making the rounds in press conferences in Davao and in Manila is the group called Mindanao Indigenous Peoples Council of Elders (MIPCEL) led by Joel Unad, who accuse both the Salugpongan Community Learning Center in Southern Mindanao and the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (Alcadev). Also included here is a faction of the Talaingod leaders led by its IP representative Pilar Libayao.
Their grounds for the closure sound close to the Red October theories of police and AFP. That these schools are actually recruiting the Lumad as rebels, and that they are taught a “communist” national anthem.
It’s an illogical argument why they see schools as places of rebellion instead of its purpose of teaching the students.
Let us be reminded that these Alcadev and Salugpongan, and let’s include CLANS in Socsksargen and Misfi Academy in Southern Mindanao, are ran by NGOs/church groups.
With the absence of DepEd schools in the remotest Lumad areas, these schools are implementers of the DepEd’s program for indigenous people’s education known as IPED, in which the government targets to end illiteracy.
So how can these schools, recognized by DepEd, get away with teaching “rebellion”? The fact is, they are doing a good service to combat illiteracy and saving the indigenous culture in this new millennium.
If they push through with closing the schools, what would happen to the education of these thousands of students? Can DepEd immediately provide schools and deploy teachers and risk seeing soldiers every day?
I question the intent and even the logic of these so-called leaders. I can question Pilar Libayao, who was also former mayor of Talaingod, how many schools have she facilitated for her town?
Perhaps the agenda of closing such schools is due to resource-based conflict. Alcadev and Lianga sits on five coal mining applications. There are several mining applications that zero in on Talaingod’s Pantaron Range, which is the only remaining bio-diversity area in Mindanao that is the headway of Pulangi River and Davao River.
A school that promotes the protection of ancestral territories perhaps stand in the way of the government. And we have the history of the Libayaos. Her late husband, former Mayor