DAVAO CITY, June 2 (PNA) — Over a thousand Ata Manobo kids in remote Talaingod area in Davao del Norte failed to enroll for the school year following the closure of their school by the Department of Education (DepEd) on accusations that the non-government organization-run school teaches communist ideology and strongly supported by the New People’s Army (NPA).
Even with a permit to operate and accredited by DepEd, three Misfi Academy schools were reportedly recommended closed by Davao del Norte Division Superintendent Josephine Fadul on May 12. This was also approved by DepEd XI regional director Alberto Escobarte.
Efforts to reach DepEd officials were done but there was no reply if the accusation is true.
Ruis Valle of the Save our School Network, said the closure came as a surprise to them because there was no prior notice given to Misfi Academy denying Ata Manobo children to enroll for the 2015 – 2016 school year.
Misfi Academy operates 40 schools in Davao del Norte with a total of 1,400 IPs attending the IP school curriculum. He said the schools were even assessed by a DepEd national officer for IP.
A 15-year-old incoming grade five pupil, Jinky Malibato said she failed to enroll because Misfi Academy school branch in Sitio Muling in Barangay Gupitan, Talaingod, Kapalong has been closed. Sitio Muling takes about two days to walk from Kapalong center.
Malibato said she wants to continue her education. She joined a group of Ata Manobo council officers to travel to Davao City to call on DepEd to open the school. She hinted she cannot travel far from their village since it would take “42 rivers” to reach the nearest school.
“Gusto lang unta namo maka subida ang magtutudlo. Unta dili sila babagan (We just want teachers to go up (Sitio Muling). I hope they will not be barred),” Malibato said.
Malibato started to go to school when Misfi opened in 2005. She was 11 years old when she entered grade one.
Earlier, Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon criticized DepEd for ordering not just the closure of three Ata-Manobo schools in the municipality of Talaingod but also the subsequent takeover of said schools by military personnel.
Valle showed a letter notice to Escobarte by Fadul recommending the closure of three Salugopungan Ta Tanu Igkanunon schools which cater to lumad children, and in its stead, the construction of a school that will be managed by the military.
“Should this request for the closure of the said schools be granted, in its stead, this Division requests permission to implement the creation of a public high school in Butay, Talaingod utilizing military personnel as para-teachers,” Fadul said in her letter.
The division superintendent argued that the schools were being used as “fronts” of the rebel New People’s Army.
But the youth representative argued that the tribal schools in Talaingod were built by missionaries and non-profit organizations to serve Lumad children. These educational institutions are in fact the only schools that strive to provide education in these far-flung areas, areas long neglected by both the local and national government.
“This recommendation runs against several resolutions of the United Nations Security Council and national laws which discourage – if not prohibit – military entry in schools,” Ridon said. (PNA)