We, the members of AGHAM Educators who served as teachers of the Lumad youth in the Lumad Bakwit School, strongly condemn the Department of Education’s order of suspension of 55 Salugpongan Ta’ Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning (STTICLC) schools in Region XI. This order, which was based on the recommendation of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) clearly shows the government’s failure to uphold the right of the Lumad to a culturally-appropriate education.
As educators who dedicated our time and effort to the Lumad Bakwit School in Manila, a makeshift school that was established as a result of the displacement of the Lumad communities in Mindanao due to increasing militarization, we have realized the relevance of a Nationalist, Scientific, and Mass-oriented Education to marginalized groups like the Lumad. Our experience in teaching at the Bakwit School opened our eyes to an unjust reality, but in many ways proved that education is indeed liberating. Thus, it is really enraging to know that DepEd, the very institution mandated to provide education to Filipino children, is the same institution that deprives the Lumad of their right to education, self-determination and their opportunity for empowerment.
Moreover, we strongly believe that the NTF-ELCAC’s report which was the basis of the closure order is unfounded, claiming that 1) the Salugpongan schools deviated from the curriculum set forth by DepEd and 2) that the children are taught of “ideologies that advocate against the government”. We, who actively participated in the Lumad Bakwit School, can tell that those claims are nothing but lies. With our rich first-hand experience in the Bakwit School, we can affirm the relevance and appropriateness of the indigenous peoples (IP) curriculum implemented by the Lumad schools. We believe that the curriculum that focuses on agriculture, academics, and health is NOT anti-government. Rather, it is a curriculum that best serves their interests and aspirations as indigenous people, liberating them from the mainstream cheap labor-oriented education.
The Lumad, who have long been fighting to defend their ancestral lands against environmentally-damaging development aggression, established their own schools and curriculum to help them protect their rights and defend their communities. As a result of a culturally-responsive curriculum, the Lumad are empowered as a collective to assert their rights as indigenous peoples. This reflects their capacity for self-determination and autonomy to assert their own conception of development, a development that is rooted in their sense of being and belonging against destructive forms of development. Hence, the order to stop the operation of these schools is another desperate measure to drive off the Lumad people from their ancestral lands to give way to the plunder of their ancestral lands through mining and large scale monoculture plantations.
Thus, we urge the Department of Education to stand with the Lumad people in its fight to defend their ancestral lands and uphold its mandate to “protect and promote the right of every Filipino to quality, equitable, culture-based, and complete basic education” by rescinding their order that calls for the shut down of Lumad schools. We demand the NTF-ELCAC to end their red-tagging and stop their attacks to the Lumad schools. We call everyone to stand with the Lumad people and defend their rights. ###
 DepEd’s mission statement (https://www.deped.gov.ph/…/vision-mission-core-values-and-…/)