Why Lumad schools are valuable to the education of Lumad children

September 3, 2019 - 7:53 PM
Lumad teachers
A Lumad school teacher shared a story on the importance of schools to Lumad children. (Artwork by Uela Altar-Badayos)

Much has been said against schools for an indigenous people, called the Lumads, contributing to an overall misconception of the value of such venues.

A teacher from a Lumad school in Mindanao shared a heartwarming story on Twitter of her father’s visit to the school and his encounter with her students.

Twitter user @itsmeclareee hoped this would raise awareness about the educational institutions. She also attached a photo of her father walking to their school.

“Nasorpresa na lang ako nang bigla siyang dumating dito sa Mindanao. Gaya ko, isang backpack rin lang ang dala tapos nakangiti na binati ako at niyakap,” she shared on August 31.

“Pumunta kami sa farm; nakipagkwentuhan siya sa mga estudyante. Sa totoo lang, mabilis sila nag-connect kasi yung tatay ko, pamilyar sa agri. Tukoy niya ang mga pangalan ng puno at marunong siya mag-alaga ng baboy,” she added.

This visit made her understand the sentiments of parents against youth activism, the teacher expressed, given the various unverified claims against them.

“Taktika ng estado na pagwatak-watakin tayo. Hindi tayo mahina, ‘di pa lamang tayong lahat organisado,” she said.

She was fortunate that her family is slowly accepting the path she took as a teacher in Mindanao for the Lumad children.

What Filipinos need is unity, the user concluded, and the state kept them divided.

“Panahon ito upang hamigin ang pinakamalawak na masa. Lumubog tayo sa kanila—sa magsasaka, sa manggagawa, sa mga propesyonal, sa ating mga pamilya. Sharpest line ang maging mapanghamig; hindi awayin sa premise na tama ang ating ipinaglalaban,” she said.

Lumad schools had paved the way to preserving the cultural identity of IP communities for years since they adapted a culturally appropriate educational system in 2015.

Marie Lourie Victor of DepEd’s Indigenous Peoples Education Office shared to Philstar.com that Lumad students needed to learn a more familiar and responsive curriculum to preserve their own culture and history.

A book in 2014 titled “Indigenous People’s Education: From Alienation to Rootedness” explained that Lumad schools currently use “localized” lessons to their students so that they can be proud of their own ethnicity when they grow up.

Threats to schools

The existence of Lumad schools had been threatened since President Rodrigo Duterte accused them of being members or enablers of communist rebels in Mindanao.

SPECIAL REPORT: For Lumad schools, even holding class is a struggle

To help these indigenous groups or IPs, prestigious universities such as the University of the Philippines, Dela Salle University and the University of Santo Tomas established schools called “bakwit” schools dedicated for the children of Lumad evacuees whose families stayed in Manila for their safety.

Photos of Lumad students of the bakwit school at UP Diliman during their flag ceremony made rounds on Twitter on September 2.

Secretary Leonor Briones of the Department of Education ordered the suspension of 55 Lumad schools in the Davao region known as Salugpongan Ta’ Tanu Igkanogon community learning schools or Salugpongans last July.

National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon recommended this move due to suspicions of them teaching “left-leaning ideologies.”

Advocates of Lumad’s rights denounced this decision being pushed through using “baseless and malicious” accusations.

“The Briones-Esperon tandem red baits Lumad schools, accusing the schools of teaching communism and forcibly shutting them down,” the Save Our Schools Network said.

Some tribal leaders, however, concurred with Esperon’s claim that the Salugpongans were security threats to the IP communities, thus warranting their closure.

Mindanao Indigenous Peoples Conference for Peace and Development chairman Datu Lipatuan Joel Unad told reporters that IPs have always been dependent on the Philippine Army through the NSA.

“Dapat ipaliwanag ng Salugpungan bakit ‘yung mga bata may sarili silang kinakantang national anthem, at kung bakit din sila tinuturuan mag-dismantle ng armas. ‘Di pa sila nagpapaliwanag until now,” Unad said.