TAGUM CITY, Philippines — The Department of Education maintains that public schools across the country are “zones of peace” despite groups contradicting such claim.
“The Department of Education (DepEd) underscores anew its strong commitment to maintain the neutrality of schools as zones of peace to ensure that learners and teachers are in an environment conducive to learning and free from harm,” the Department said in a statement on Monday, November 20.
DepEd issued the statement during the global observance on the Universal Children’s Day celebrated every 20th day of November.
Attacks in schools
The education department’s statement came in heels of criticisms hurled by child rights advocate.
The groups called out DepEd, saying it did not condemn the spate of attacks against tribal learning facilities in Mindanao perpetrated by government forces.
More so, the agency’s hard stance of revoking the DepEd Memorandum No. 221 series of 2013 which allowed the entry of government forces inside the school premises during the conduct of military operations was also the subject of Save Our School Network’s protest actions (SOS), a child rights advocacy group that promotes the right of Lumad children.
Silence on reported attacks
Rius Valle, SOS Network Mindanao spokesperson, questioned DepEd’s apparent “snub and for being mum” on the issue while upholding the controversial memorandum “even as killings of teachers and students by paramilitary groups and their military handlers occurred frequently” in areas where Lumad schools are operating.
Valle said the bombing have escalated after President Duterte ordered the military “to bomb and destroy Lumad schools.”
But Education Secretary Leonor Magtolis Briones said that DepEd “has and will always condemn all activities that endanger schools and other learning institutions.”
Briones said that Deped has shown its long-standing commitment to protect the school children’s right through the issuance of the DepEd Order No. 44, series of 2005, or the Declaration of Schools as Zones of Peace.
She also recognized that involving schools in armed conflict would result to the delay of the delivery of quality, accessible, relevant, and liberating basic education to Filipino learners.
“We enjoin everyone to ensure that learners, teachers and other personnel, as well as schools and other learning institutions, are spared from any form of violence and threat at all times, especially during armed conflict,” Briones said.
Schools across the country were instructed to post the official tarpaulin indicating schools as zones of peace, she added.
DepEd has been actively campaigning for the Philippines to sign the Safe Schools Declaration (SSD) and the Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use During Armed Conflict. (davaotoday.com)