DepEd on Salugpungan issue: ‘Look at the bigger picture’

Published November 1, 2019, 7:25 PM

by Ellalyn De Vera & Richa Noriega

By Merlina Hernando-Malipot

Amid the criticisms thrown at it for following its order to close down private schools that cater to indigenous people (IP) learners in the Davao Region, the Department of Education (DepEd) urged the public to look at the “overall picture” of the IP education nationwide.

Department of Education (MANILA BULLETIN)
Department of Education (MANILA BULLETIN)

“The public should not lose sight of the broader context that DepEd actually serves a much bigger area for IP education than the Salugpongan areas that have received the greater media attention,” DepEd said in a recent statement.

In September, the Assistant Regional Director and OIC of DepEd Region XI approved the recommendation of the Fact-Finding Committee for the closure of the private schools operated by the Salugpongan Ta’ Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center, Inc. (Salugpongan). This was received by the representative of Salugpongan last October 7.

DepEd Region XI ordered the closure of at least 55 lumad schools in the region for failing to comply with the standards and requirements set by the agency. This displaced over 1, 142 IP students and prompted various groups to expressed their concern on the education and rights of the said learners.

DepEd noted that the said Resolution was “condemned” by the Save our Schools Network (SOS), which – based on various website pages – is a network of organizations that includes Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns, Children’s Rehabilitation Center, Gabriela, Gabriela Women’s Party, ACT Teachers Partylist, ACT, Karapatan, Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, Student Christian Movement of the Philippines, Ibon International, Ibon, Association for the Rights of Children in Southeast Asia, and Salugpongan International.

In its October 9 statement, DepEd said that the network averred that “such move is tantamount to disenfranchisement of thousands of Lumad children to their right to education” and that Salugpongan was not given due process. Earlier, the Commission on Human Rights – through a statement by Commissioner Gwendolyn Pimentel-Gana dated October 7 – expressed “concern over the continued closure of Lumad schools in the Davao region.”

To this, DepEd assured that its actions are “guided by the interest of protecting the children” and always mindful that their right to education is upheld at all times. “Our actions also accord due process to all concerned,” it added.

Broader context

As the celebration of the National Indigenous People (IP) officially culminates, DepEd reiterated that it will continue to strengthen the National Indigenous Peoples Education (IPEd). As of SY 2018-2019, DepEd data showed that at least 2,593,555 IP learners (11.5% of all public school learners) are enrolled in 39,994 public schools (71.83% of all public schools) across the country.

The IPed Program, DepEd said, is the agency’s “response to the right of IP communities to basic education that is sensitive to their context, respects their identities, and promotes the value of their indigenous knowledge, competencies, and other aspects of their cultural heritage.”

Through the IPEd Program, DepEd supports education initiatives undertaken through formal, non-formal, and informal modalities. Initiatives under the IPEd program cover the establishment of dialogue mechanisms with IP communities, curriculum contextualization, Mother tongue-based Multilingual Education (MTB-MLE), and teacher hiring and capacity development of DepEd personnel.

“As it maintains its thrust to strengthen the enabling condition for culture-based education, the Department emphasizes the importance of managing the IPEd Program through a long-term partnership with IP communities at all governance levels,” DepEd said.

DepEd added that it “will continue to consult, engage, and partner with IP elders and communities to further strengthen the program and ensure that the education system is truly inclusive, the learning environment is safe and conducive, and the right of every Filipino learner to quality basic education is upheld, promoted, and safeguarded.”

Meanwhile, DepEd noted that 1,000 out of the 1, 142 displaced lumad learners in Salugpungan schools are already enrolled and accommodated in its public schools. “This belies the representation by critics that the learners are deprived of education by the closure because of absence of DepEd schools in these areas,” it ended.