Who gains when Lu­mad schools are closed?

Sun.Star Davao - - OPINION - TY­RONE VELEZ [email protected]

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

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