Bak­wit schools re­flect deeper prob­lem of schools un­der at­tack

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The Save Our Schools Net­work re­acted to the Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion Re­gion 11’s state­ment that bak­wit schools in UCCP Haran will not be rec­og­nized, say­ing it fails to ad­dress the prob­lem of schools dis­placed due to mil­i­ta­riza­tion.

This comes after DepEd 11 spokesper­son Jeinelito Atillo said they will not rec­og­nize the bak­wit school of Salug­pon­gan Com­mu­nity Learn­ing Cen­ter for their dis­placed grade 6 and 7 classes of Nasi­l­a­ban and Dulyan, Talain­god as they are held out­side of the ar­eas of their school per­mits.

SOS net­work spokesper­son Rius Valle said the DepEd should not just look at the mere tech­ni­cal­ity of the per­mits of Salug­pon­gan, but should rather ad­dress why Lu­mad schools are be­ing driven away from Talain­god in the first place.

“If we have to be tech­ni­cal about it, what about the vi­o­la­tions made by the mil­i­tary against in­ter­na­tional hu­man­i­tar­ian law and the rights of the chil­dren? This is the rea­son why these Lu­mad chil­dren are in bak­wit schools be­cause the sol­diers and para­mil­i­tary are en­camped in the cam­pus and pad­lock­ing them, and DepEd need to act on this,” Valle said.

The SOS urged DepEd to in­ves­ti­gate in­stead these cases of at­tacks on schools which have been re­ported to them by Salug­pon­gan ad­min­is­tra­tors and other Lu­mad schools.

Valle be­lieved this is within the man­date of DepEd to en­force the pro­tec­tion of schools and en­sure the right to ed­u­ca­tion of the Lu­mad school chil­dren and youth.

“Rather than ze­ro­ing in on the is­sue of tech­ni­cal­ity, the way to ad­dress these bak­wet schools is to en­force the sol­diers leave the Lu­mad schools and com­mu­ni­ties, and dis­band the para­mil­i­tary, so that the Lu­mad schools can re­turn,” said Valle.

Valle said DepEd 11 has long made tech­ni­cal­i­ties an is­sue. On 2015, a MISFI Academy school was forcibly closed in Ka­pa­long, Davao del Norte and evac­u­ated to Haran due to at­tacks by Ala­mara. Yet the DepEd ig­nored the dan­gers by urg­ing the Lu­mad evac­uees to re­turn to their com­mu­ni­ties and con­tinue their school­ing in ar­eas spec­i­fied by their per­mits.

He said DepEd should weigh in the cases of at­tacks on Salug­pon­gan schools and other Lu­mad schools. He noted the case of Salug­pon­gan stu­dent Obello Bay-ao, 17, who was shot dead by an Ala­mara mem­ber in Nasi­l­a­ban in Septem­ber 5, 2017. In an­other in­stance, Salug­pon­gan teacher Rafael Miguel sur­vived a gun at­tack by the same Ala­mara mem­ber in 2017.

Valle re­minded DepEd that part of their man­date is to en­sure the rights of the chil­dren to ed­u­ca­tion, and they should pro­tect schools from at­tacks or oc­cu­pa­tion from armed state groups.

Valle also said Atillo’s sug­ges­tion that Salug­pon­gan stu­dents can trans­fer to pub­lic schools is a quick-fix so­lu­tion but fails to ad­dress the prob­lem. He noted that pub­lic schools are far from the com­mu­ni­ties and may not fully ab­sorb more than 600 Salug­pon­gan stu­dents.

“We re­mind the DepEd that Salug­pon­gan schools and other Lu­mad schools ran by NGOs and re­li­gious groups are their part­ners in im­ple­ment­ing their ed­u­ca­tion pro­gram for the Lu­mad. There should be no com­pe­ti­tion.

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