Urgent Action: Philippine indigenous community schools being shut down

PHILIPPINES: Community schools for indigenous children being shut down by Department of Education in Caraga region

ISSUES: Childs right; indigenous people; rule of law

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSIONURGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME

Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-082-2015

6 July 2015

Dear Friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) writes with deep concern about the endorsement by the Department of Education Region XI to shut down at least 24 accredited community schools, which will affect 2,896 Lumad children. Furthermore, concern is also being expressed at the decision to allow military personnel to operate as para-teachers in public schools set to replace the closed community schools. The students are at risk of being drawn into armed conflict due to the presence of soldiers.

CASE DETAILS: (Based on the documentation by Alliance for the Advancement of Peoples Rights (KARAPATAN) and Bulatlat)

On 12 May 2015, in a letter addressed to Alberto Escobarte, Department of Education (DepEd) Region XI Director, Josephine Fadul, DepEd Division of Davao del Norte Superintendent, has endorsed the closure of at least 24 schools, which will affect 2,896 Lumad children of Salugpongan Ta’Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center (Unity in Defense of Ancestral Land) (STTICLC) and Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation Inc. Academy (MISFI Academy).

A total of not less than 146 Lumad community schools provide formal and non-formal education to children in various indigenous communities in Mindanao and the majority implement DepEd-accredited formal education. They also provide literacy and numeracy programs and introduce scientific agriculture while strengthening the Lumad’s indigenous culture and traditions.

Since 2011, a total of 82 incidents of state-instigated attacks involving 57 community schools and day care centers in Mindanao have been documented and reported by the Children’s Rehabilitation Conflict. These community schools and centers adopted the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Directive 25 or Guidelines on the Conduct of AFP Activities Inside or Within the Premises of School or Hospital. Under both directives, military elements are allowed to conduct “civil-military operations” as long as the AFP has a written request and school authorities have given their approval. Since the issuance of the Department Order, an increase in the number of military attacks on community schools has been noted.

The situation over a decade ago was that public schools were built in town centers, far from upland communities, compelling Lumad children to walk for hours every day to attend their classes. Children unable to endure the difficulty chose not to attend these schools. With more and more children opting not to go to school, Lumad elders in Mindanao, with the support of non-government and church-based organizations, worked hard to put up schools in their own community 10 years ago.

DepEd Division of Davao del Norte Superintendent Josephine Fadul has also requested permission to build public schools with military men as para-teachers, in place of the community schools being shut down.

However, these public schools will not serve the purpose of educating Lumad children. The trauma and fear that they have experienced and that the military men have instilled in them in a series of military attacks will negate the possibility of Lumad children learning.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION:

The Alternative Center for Agricultural Development (ALCADEV) was established in 2004. It is the first alternative school for indigenous youth in Surigao del Sur, Surigao del Norte, Agusan del Norte, and Agusan del Sur. The Tribal Filipino Program of Surigao Sur (TRIFPSS) and other indigenous organisations helped set it up. The B’laan Literacy School and Learning Center (BLSLC) was established 2008 in the remote area of Saranggani. This was a project initiated by center for Lumad advocacy and services in partnership (CLANS) with association for the rights of children in Southeast Asia (Arcsea). They are alternative schools providing education for indigenous people.

The STTICLC in Compostela Valley was built to serve the Lumad. It is a community-based learning center, which was established with the help of Rural Missionary of Philippines and has been accredited by DepED. MISFI Academy provides basic educational tools in a unique educational module in the Moro and indigenous communities from preschool to Grade 7. Both the Learning Center and the Academy operate in different parts of Davao del Norte.

The Oplan Bayanihan, Aquino’s counter-insurgency program, compels the use of schools as military camps and outposts to store armaments and personal effects. Continued use of schools in this manner, however, damages infrastructure. Due to terror brought about by military presence and the fear of impending danger, students and teachers suffer anxiety. Military operations have disrupted not only the operation of these schools, but also the lives and livelihoods of Lumad people in general.

The Save our Schools Network had a dialogue with DepEd Secretary Armin Luistro last year to inform him of the continuing use of these schools by military and to have the Secretary revoke DepEd Memorandum 221 series of 2013 or the “Guidelines on the Protection of Children during Armed Conflict”, which not only continues militarization of schools but has increased violations.

SUGGESTED ACTION:

Please write letters to the concerned authorities listed below expressing your concern about this case. The AHRC is also writing a separate letter to the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to education and the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous people.

To support this case, please click here:

SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear …………….,

PHILIPPINES: Community schools for indigenous children being shut down by Department of Education in Caraga region

Number of affected children that will be affected of the school closure: More or less 2,896 Lumad children

Date of incident: 12 May 2015 up to present

Place of incident: CARAGA Region

I am writing to raise my concern on the case of closing schools for indigenous people.

On 12 May 2015, in a letter addressed to Alberto Escobarte, Department of Education (DepEd) Region XI Director, Josephine Fadul, DepEd Division of Davao del Norte Superintendent, has endorsed the closure of at least 24 schools, which will affect 2,896 Lumad children of Salugpongan Ta’Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center (Unity in Defense of Ancestral Land) (STTICLC) and Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation Inc. Academy (MISFI Academy).

I learned that a total of not less than 146 Lumad community schools provide formal and non-formal education to children in various indigenous communities in Mindanao and the majority implement DepEd-accredited formal education. They also provide literacy and numeracy programs and introduce scientific agriculture while strengthening the Lumad’s indigenous culture and traditions.

I am in the opinion that education is for all. The indigenous children need not to be deprived to education and at schools soon to be close.

Since 2011, a total of 82 incidents of state-instigated attacks involving 57 community schools and day care centers in Mindanao have been documented and reported by the Children’s Rehabilitation Conflict. These community schools and centers adopted the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Directive 25 or Guidelines on the Conduct of AFP Activities Inside or Within the Premises of School or Hospital. Under both directives, military elements are allowed to conduct “civil-military operations” as long as the AFP has a written request and school authorities have given their approval. Since the issuance of the Department Order, an increase in the number of military attacks on community schools has been noted.

The situation over a decade ago was that public schools were built in town centers, far from upland communities, compelling Lumad children to walk for hours every day to attend their classes. Children unable to endure the difficulty chose not to attend these schools. With more and more children opting not to go to school, Lumad elders in Mindanao, with the support of non-government and church-based organizations, worked hard to put up schools in their own community 10 years ago.

DepEd Division of Davao del Norte Superintendent Josephine Fadul has also requested permission to build public schools with military men as para-teachers, in place of the community schools being shut down.

However, these public schools will not serve the purpose of educating Lumad children. The trauma and fear that they have experienced and that the military men have instilled in them in a series of military attacks will negate the possibility of Lumad children learning.

I urge the Department of Education act on this issue considering that education of indigenous people. I am disturbed for schools use for military purposes and that soldiers will act as educators. I urge you to ensure this issue to resolve immediately.

I trust that you will take appropriate action in this matter.

Yours sincerely,

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PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

1. Mr. Benigno Aquino III
President
Republic of the Philippines
Malacanang Palace
JP Laurel Street, San Miguel
Manila 1005
PHILIPPINES
Fax: +63 2 736 1010
Tel: +63 2 735 6201 / 564 1451 to 80

2. Mr. Jose Luis Martin Gascon
Chairperson
Commission on Human Rights
SAAC Bldg., Commonwealth Avenue
U.P. Complex, Diliman
Quezon City
PHILIPPINES
Fax: +63 2 929 0102

3. Bro. Armin A. Luistro FSC
Secretary
Department of Education
DepEd Complex, Meralco Avenue
Pasig City, Metro Manila
PHILIPPINES
Fax: + 63 2 636-4876

4. Ms. Leila de Lima
Secretary
Department of Justice (DOJ)
DOJ Bldg., Padre Faura
1004 Manila
PHILIPPINES
Fax: +63 2 521 1614
E-mail: s…@doj.gov.ph

5. Attorney Pinky Grace P. Pabelic
Acting Regional Director
National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP) Region XIII
Intino Building, J.C. Aquino Avenue, Butuan City, 8600
PHILIPPINES
Fax: +63 085 342-4458

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Desk

Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)

Visit our website with more features at www.humanrights.asia.

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Asian Human Rights Commission
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