DepEd in Davao Region sets up 10 schools for indigenous peoples

Posted on September 12, 2015

DAVAO CITY -- As condemnation continues to mount over the alleged killing of an indigenous school teacher and community leaders in Lianga, Surigao del Sur by military and paramilitary units, the Department of Education (DepEd) in the Davao Region said it has established 10 schools for children belonging to indigenous peoples (IP) communities.

More than 600 IP students are currently enrolled in the schools that opened last June, according to Jenielito S. Atillo,spokesperson for DepEd-Region 11.

“We already have established these schools in areas where there are issues faced by IPs,” Mr. Atillo said in an interview.

The schools are in parts of Compostela Valley, Davao Oriental as well as in Talaingod, Davao del Norte where the Salugpongan Ta’ Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center, a school for IPs that was ordered closed this year by the DepEd for supposed failure to renew their permit, is located.

“These schools are supposedly in preparation for the alleged schools that were foreclosed by DepEd, which is not true. But we continued on because there is a need and the order of the (Education) secretary is to establish these schools formally,” Mr. Atillo said.

Human rights group KARAPATAN Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights, however, expressed skepticism over the “motivations behind the establishment of DepEd schools”, particularly in Davao del Norte.

Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay, in a text message to BusinessWorld, said these schools “were conducted in the light of intense AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) operations and encampment in lumad (IP) alternative learning institutions and disruption of the schooling of children in these schools.”

“The motivations are not at all altruistic nor it is an expression of compliance to DepEd’s mandate -- it is clearly a means of militaristic end of the AFP that is to occupy whole communities and schools and to further engender terror in civilian communities,” Ms. Palabay said.

Mr. Atillo said the 10 schools can accommodate more students and they expect enrolment to increase in the coming months until the next school year with schoolchildren coming from the far-flung areas.

Teachers assigned in the new schools are conducting multi-level classes wherein Grades 1, 2, and 3 are taken care of by one teacher.

“These teachers are equipped with multigrade type of know-how. These teachers also underwent training on how to teach IP students. It’s a very good start though it’s really our dream of the ratio of one-is-to-one (per grade level). Presently we cannot do that, but what is important there is we do something about it,” he said.

“These schools will really answer the educational needs of the IP students,” Mr. Atillo added, noting that the curriculum adopted is specifically designed for the indigenous communities under the Basic Education Assistance for Mindanao (BEAM) program.

The DepEd regional office aims to open more schools to serve children in more remote areas.

The IP Sectoral Council of the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC), in a statement issued yesterday, called for a Regional Inter-Agency Investigation as well as an investigation by the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) on the Surigao del Sur incident where three people were killed and some 565 families were forced to flee their homes, based on Karapatan’s report. -- Maya M. Padillo