DAVAO CITY — Of the 1,142 lumad learners affected by the closure of the controversial Salugpungan Ta’Tanu Iskanogon Community Learning Center Inc. (STICLCI), a thousand are now enrolled with the different government-run schools in the region.
The students are no longer with the schools that authorities claimed to have been influencing learners to believe the ideology of the communist rebel movement. STICLCI rejects the accusation, characterizing it as a military propaganda.
A tug-of-war between the government authorities and the leaders of the Save Our School (SOS) movement further complicated the issue. In the end, government interests prevailed, leading to a diaspora of learners who are now pursuing their education in schools of their own choice.
Jeneto Atillo, spokesperson of the Department of Education (DepEd) regional office told NewsLine: “The one thousand learners are now regularly attending their classes in various public schools, except the unaccounted 142 which we suspect are inside the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) Haran compound in Torres Street (Davao City).
The students, according to Atillo, accommodated even before the closure order came out, they started to transfer while the schools were under suspension. But he stressed: “We cannot find the 12 students, we suspect that they are held inside the so-called ‘Bakwit School’ in Haran, but we do not recognize that school, it does not have the authority to operate.”
The “Bakwit School” can never be issued authority to operate “because it is just a stone’s throw away from Wireless Elementary School and Doña Pilar Elementary School,” Atillo said.
Earlier on, the DepEd, advised the parents to transfer their students to public schools, many transferred but as of Saturday, October 11, still the 142 remain unaccounted. Last week, the DepEd issued an order to cause the permanent closure of the Salupungan schools, an order yet again protested by the SOS network.
While the NGOs assisting the Salugpugnan schools protested the decision, the DepEd said it continues to find remedy to account the students, who are all minors.
With the situation, Atillo said the DepEd is calling on the parents to bring their children to public schools of their choice. “We will accept them even if they do not have credentials, we will utilize the resources within our power to assist the learners, if Salugpungan does not take it as their responsibility they are answerable to the students and the parents and the future of those children,” he said.
The lumad leaders in various communities welcomed the recent order of the DepEd to close the schools, claiming they are aware of the kind of education the children are getting inside Salugpungan.
Datu Gibang Apoga, chieftain of the Manobo tribe, thanked the Secretary for visiting and for DepEd’s efforts to improve the IP learners’ access to quality basic education. According to him, it has always been his dream that all children and youth in Talaingod, including those who have long been in the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) Haran compound, will achieve their life goals through quality basic education.
School head Yuri Jiovanni Colita reported that the integrated school already accommodated the learners from the neighboring Salugpongan learning centers, where one has been closed and torn down by the community. He added that the teachers are working to ensure that the learners will be able to advance to the next grade level with the appropriate documents.-Editha Z. Caduaya