From today till December 10, Human Rights Day and the last day of the 16 Days of Activism to End Gender-based Violence 2015, the Save Our Schools Netxork seeks signatories for its online petition on Change.orgto keep schools for indiigenous children open and safe from armed conflict.
Here is its letter:
We are alarmed that 2,896 Lumad children will be denied of their right to education when the Aquino government closes down Lumad community schools in Davao del Norte.
While schools all over the country are slated to start their classes in June this year, we are convinced that the Department of Education Division of Davao del Norte intends to shut down lumad community schools. In a letter dated May 12 addressed to DepEd Region XI Director Alberto Escobarte, DepEd Division of Davao del Norte Superintendent Josephine Fadul endorsed the closure of at least 24 schools of Salugpongan Ta’Tanu Igkanogon Communi ty Learning Center (STTICLC) and Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation Inc. Academy (MISFI Academy) .
Education is a basic human right essential in realizing all other human rights. However, most Filipino children are deprived of this right and peasants and indigenous peoples right to education are far more neglected. Schools are 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 choose not to attend school. 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.
The STTICLC and the MISFI Academy operate in different parts of Davao del Norte. Tribal Filipino Program of Surigao Sur (TRIFPSS) and the Alternative Center for Agricultural Development (ALCADEV) operate in the Caraga Region. While the B’laan Literacy School and Learning Center (BLSLC) operates in Saranggani province. 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 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.
Attacks on Schools
International laws covering conflict situations expressly prohibit the use of public infrastructures such as schools; hospitals and rural health units for military purposes such as command posts, barracks detachments, and supply depots.
But Oplan Bayanihan, Aquino’s counter-insurgency program, compels the unwarranted use of the schools as military camps and outposts used to store armaments and personal effects. Continued use of schools damages infrastructures. 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 livelihood of Lumad people, in general.
Since 2011, a total of 82 incidents of state-instigated attacks involving 57 schools and day care centers in Mindanao have been documented and reported by the Children’s Rehabilitation Center. In Southern Mindanao alone, at least 13 cases have been documented and reported from January to May of this year.
The DepEd further supported the military’s use of schools and violation of children's right to education when it issued Memorandum 221, series of 2013 or the Guidelines on the Protection of Children During Armed Conflict which adopted the 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” a s 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 schools was noted.