CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 17 August 2019

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Philippine authorities order closure of tribal schools

MANILA (UCAN): Education officials in the Philippines ordered the closure of 55 schools catering to the Lumad indigenous in Davao, Mindanao, for allegedly teaching “left-leaning ideologies.”
 
In a June 12 order, the schools, run by the nonprofit Salugpongan Ta’ Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center Inc., were denied permits to operate for the upcoming 2019-20 school year.
 
The suspension was issued upon a recommendation made by national security adviser, Hermogenes Esperon, a retired general.
 
Education Department spokesperson, Jenielito Atillo, said the move followed allegations made by a former student who claimed that children in tribal schools are taught how to handle firearms and military tactics such as ambuscades.
 
Students in these schools were also reportedly used in protests and taught “anti-government ideologies.”
 
The Save Our Schools Network, a coalition of Church and non-government groups, condemned the order, saying it did not follow due process.
 
In a statement, the group said it had repeatedly raised concerns over the military forcibly closing schools and even forcing villagers at gunpoint to destroy school buildings.
 
Salugpongan said it would fight the “fabricated accusations.”
 
It said, “We are saddened that the government’s mandate to recognise and uphold the right of the (tribal people of Mindanao) to an education and self-determination is suppressed by a militaristic approach that further marginalises the (people).” 
 
Prior to the suspension order, only 11 of the 55 Salugpongan schools were operating because of alleged military harassment.
 
Earlier this year, the Save Our Schools Network reported that at least 85 tribal schools, also in Mindanao, had been closed due to military operations.
 
International child rights group, Save the Children, also reported that conflict in the southern Philippines has displaced 76,383 children. The report indicated that at least 7,200 tribal children were not able to go to school because of armed conflict.
 
Tribal schools in Mindanao have come under increasing pressure since peace negotiations between the government and communist rebels failed in 2017.

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