The Department of Education in the region has approved the request of the Salugpongan Ta’ Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center Inc. to be given until July 22 to answer the allegations of National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon that led to the issuance of the suspension of “the permit to operate and recognition of private schools owned and operated by Salugpongan.”
Since 2016, Salugpongan has been under constant controversy, especially with the evacuation of Lumads who feared for their lives during military operations aimed at flushing out the rebels in the far flung towns in the region. There were many instances when violence broke out within the Haran Compound in UCCP when Lumads resisted government plans to bring them home. Although many have since returned to their communities, there are still Lumads who cling to the hope of going back to a peaceful home. In the meantime, their children are given education, from Kinder to Grade 6, that will improve their lot in life.
The soldiers are mandated to maintain law and order, and we respect their commitment and bravery to risk their lives to fulfill their mandate. They too have young children waiting for them at home, children who may be of the same age as those being taught at the Salugpongan schools.
DepEd has given guidelines and frameworks in the implementation of Indigenous Peoples Learning Centers. The education needs of the Lumad children are not the same as the rest of the children in this land. Respecting and being culturally sensitive to their indigenous culture and knowledge have to be a priority and even the DepEd subscribes to that, thus the issuance of department orders to ensure that these rights are protected.
We hope that indeed the DepEd can accommodate and properly cater to the educational needs of Lumad children who will be displaced if the 11 Salugpongan schools are suspended. We hope that the DepEd teachers are prepared to teach them the curriculum designed for the Lumads as provided in the guidelines of DepEd regarding indigenous peoples learning.
At this time, what matters most is that children are not deprived of education which is a basic right and perhaps the only chance to shape a better future for the next generation of indigenous peoples.