DAVAO CITY, Philippines — Parents in Talaingod who have enrolled their students to the recently suspended Salugpongan Learning Center oppose the option from the Department of Education Region 11 that they transfer their children to public schools.
This would mean added costs to send their children to school that is situated hours away from their villages, compared to the Salugpongan schools that are just right in their communities where they can monitor their children.
DepEd 11 recently suspended 55 Salugpongan community schools in Talaingod and ordered the students be “facilitated” to transfer to one of the 124 lumad schools they have formed in the region, 43 of which are in Davao del Norte.
But for Lorena Mandacawan, member of the Parents -Teachers and Community Association (PTCA) of the Salugpungan schools, they see this as more hardship.
“Our children’s tuition will cost 300 pesos if we send them to a DepEd school,” said Mandacawan.
She said this will mean parents would work hard double time just to find a living to send their children to a DepEd school.
“It is hard as (parents) work in the fields for a Php150 per day income, it’s not enough for a family who eats three times a day,” said Mandacawan.
She also said most public schools are located in town propers, which means children from remote villages need to travel three to four hours from their villages just to get there.
Despite assurance from DepEd 11 spokesperson Jenelito Atillo that the DepEd schools will be boarding schools, Mandacawan believes this entail more costs, which a Talaingod family could hardly keep up.
“Aside from that we also need to provide their food and other needs while they stay at the boarding because it is not free. It is also costly for us to pay their exams, buy their needs for their studies like bags, notebooks, pens and even their slippers,” she added.
Other lumad parents interviewed by Davao Today said they cannot bear to see their children walking for hours to go to school every day. Most of their children they said cried on their way to school because of the distance and hunger.
Mandacawan said that when the parents learned of the suspension of Salugpongan schools, they have no other option but to back the efforts of teachers to defy the order and stay put with their schools.
“We are willing to help and stand along with the teachers and administrators to defend our schools that brought out a lot of learnings,” said Mandacawan.
“We are very thankful for Salugpungan. Because of them, our children get to study without any worry. We parents are also involved with the school activities as we are also their students during weekends,” said one of the parents.
Salugpongan administrators said they are preparing their report to DepEd to answer allegations from National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon that the school is recruiting students to rebel against the government.
The Salugpongan Community Learning Center, established by the tribal organization Salugpongan Ta Tanu Igkanugon in 2003 originally as a literacy-numeracy school through the support of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines.
It later established a boarding school for students living in remote barangays, and has obtained accreditation from DepEd for its Indigenous Peoples Education (IPED) program while following the K to 12 curriculum. (davaotoday.com)