By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
Amid the uproar created by the suspension order issued against some lumad schools in Davao Region, the Department of Education (DepEd) assured that there will be “no disruption” in their education and directed nearby public schools to accommodate the displaced learners.
Education Secretary Leonor Briones, in a recent press conference, confirmed the agency’s directive to issue suspension orders to 55 lumad schools under the Salugpongan Ta’Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center Inc.
DepEd’s regional office in Region 11 has suspended the permits to operate of 55 Salugpongan schools located in Compostela Valley, Davao Oriental, Tagum, Davao del Norte and Davao City. These schools have a total of 1, 142 learners.
In an effort to ensure that the displaced learners will continue their studies, DepEd has directed nearby public schools to accept the students. “Arrangements have always been made for the transfer of the students to other nearby accessible schools,” Briones said. “We have public schools nearby and we asked them to accept these learners and waive documentary requirements to ensure that their education will continue,” she added.
Meanwhile, DepEd Undersecretary Atty. Nepomuceno Malaluan cited that part of the order issued by DepEd Region 11 Officer-in-Charge Evelyn Fetalvero was to “ensure that the students shall be accommodated in all nearby DepEd schools.”
This directive, Malaluan said, was the same arrangement for learners who were displaced by months-long siege in Marawi City in 2017. “A similar directive was made in the Marawi incident where we directed all our schools nationwide at that time to accept all displaced learners from the Marawi incident,” he explained. In the case of the affected Indigenous Peoples (IP) learners, he noted that “there was a specific instruction for the division and the region to make sure that these students would be accepted in our schools.”
No singling out
Since the news on temporary closure of 55 lumad schools broke out, DepEd has been under fire for “singling out” these IP schools that were allegedly linked to the Communist rebel movement.
Briones stressed that DepEd has been suspending permits of schools – particularly private schools – that have failed to comply with the requirements set by the department. “This is not the only instance where schools are closed because we have closed private schools – small private schools,” she said. “I just want to emphasize that they are not singled out, that they are not being targeted or focused on,” she added.
Private schools just like the schools that operate under the Salugpongan, Briones said, have to comply with the prevailing standards which take into consideration the number of enrollees, teachers’ qualifications, facilities such as classrooms, and the curriculum which should be aligned of that with DepEd.
“Every year, there are schools closed and students are transferred to other schools or branches, for various problems such as non-compliance – for example, they ran out of teachers or they ran out of students or their facilities are inadequate,” Briones explained. She maintained that the 55 lumad schools have repeatedly failed to comply with DepEd’s standards which led to the issuance of the suspension order.
Aside from failure to comply with necessary requirements, she noted that DepEd has to take into consideration “national security concerns.” Part of the reason why DepEd suspended the permits to operate of the lumad schools is the report of National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. alleging that these schools are teaching “anti-government propaganda” which deviates from the curriculum of DepEd.