DAVAO CITY, Philippines – A Lumad school teacher revealed that alleged “state-sponsored” attacks on schools continue in the course of the two-month lockdown due to the coronavirus disease (Covid-19).
This was raised during an online webinar or web seminar held by the Sabokahan IP Women to discuss human rights issues related to the indigenous peoples.
Jenerose Hayahay, a teacher of Salugpongan Ta Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center (STTICLC), said they continue to receive reports of harassment from community schools in Mindanao.
Hayahay reported 14 cases of attacks were documented against parents, students, and volunteer teachers of these Lumad schools.
This includes the recent report from Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation Incorporated (MISFI) Academy that some of its students in the Kisante, North Cotabato campus were interrogated by individuals claiming to be working with the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) on May 10.
Another student was paraded on an army’s Facebook page as a “child in distress” that they rescued. But the student was safe in school and turned over to her parents.
The Community Technical College of Southeastern Mindanao (CTCSM), a community college serving Lumad and farmer scholars in Maco, Davao de Oro province, also reported that unidentified individuals trespassed in the campus during the turnover of stranded scholars to the provincial government. The incident caused alarm to other students.
“It’s infuriating that amid the crisis brought by the COVID-19, attacks against Lumad schools and communities remain,” Hayahay said, noting the continued efforts from the State to shut down all Lumad schools–161 of which were already closed.
“[State forces] continued with the harassments such as interrogating the parents and students in their respective houses, taking videos, and using the social media as platform in red-tagging,” she added.
The Save Our Schools Network has recorded 671 incidents of harassment and red-baiting against the Lumad schools and communities from July 2016 to February 2020 prior to the lockdown.
Meanwhile, Hayahay pointed out that many schools, including indigenous schools, will be struggling to resume classes with the “new normal” measures implemented by the Department of Education such as online education.
The Department of Education (DepEd) had announced that the new school year will open on August 24.
“Given the situation that we have, we lack teachers, health facilities – may it be Lumad schools or private and public schools. We can’t afford to have gadgets to go with online learning,” Hayahay said.
Participants of the Sabokahan webinar also support the call for mass testing in schools to ensure the safety of children and teachers as COVID-19 infection in the country continue to increase. (davaotoday.com)