DAVAO CITY, Philippines – A community school for the indigenous peoples here in Mindanao will commemorate its 12th founding anniversary despite the threats it faces since its establishment.

Instead of a festive celebration, the Salugpungan Ta ‘Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center, Inc. (STTICLCI)’s foundation day will be a commemoration day “to remind the struggle experienced” by the community school.

Sabil Laquina, basic education program coordinator of the STTICLCI, said “despite the attacks, harassment, and intimidation of the institutions, the school continues to spread out.

In 2015, Save our Schools Network, a network of education rights advocates, recorded 95 cases of attacks against Lumad schools all over Mindanao. As of August 2016, a total of 115 incidents of attack against Lumad schools in Davao Region alone.

The attacks, according to the group, includes: military encampment, threats, harassment & intimidation against the student and teachers, vilification, extra-judicial killing, frustrated killings, used as guide, surveillance, used as shield, illegal arrest and detention, torture, forcible evacuation, branding of children as child soldiers, destruction of school properties, school closure, and indiscriminate firing.

“Up to now, most of our schools have military presence,” Laquina said.

Instead of being glad of the resumption of peace talks between the government and the communist group, Laquina felt otherwise.

“I went to some of our campuses and there is still military presence and the intimidation towards our students and teachers intensified,” Laquino said.

During his first State of the Nation Address on July 25, President Rodrigo Duterte declared a unilateral ceasefire with the New People’s Army but was lifted two days after the ambush took place in Davao del Norte which killed members of the Citizen Armed Forces of the Philippines Geographical Unit (CAFGU).

On August 25, the Malacañang reiterated its ceasefire declaration with the communists to provide “an enabling environment” for the resumption of peace talks in Oslo, Norway.  Two days after, the Communist Part of the Philippines declared its own unilateral ceasefire.

“We are calling both parties to follow the ceasefire,” Laquina said.

The STTICLCI has already 42 community learning centers operating in Davao Region. Its teachers, faculty, and students from different campuses of the school will gather in their school in Compostela Valley from September 30 to October 5 for their foundation day. (davaotoday.com)

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