For many, transformative education is just a catch phrase to be in, but hey, it is a framework that will not allow us to produce futures slaves, maintain culture of silence, and increase disempowered citizenry.

Davao Today

Writing as an academic who has a special interest in the role of education for social change and development, I consider the year 2012 as a fruitful and challenging stage in the education reform movement. The year 2012 was an attempt to mainstream transformative education among the formal and non-formal community educators in the island of Mindanao.  Transformative education stressed the socio-political context of the education sector.  Foremost in these attempts included the campaign against attacks on alternative schools.

It should be known that more than a hundred community learning centres in the island were inauspiciously viewed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines as part of the social infrastructures of the so-called “enemy of the state,” the Communist Party of the Philippines. Notwithstanding, the state forces are heavily deployed in Mindanao with Davao Region as the primary target of military operations on its anti-insurgency campaign, the infamous Oplan Bayanihan (“Operation Community Action”).

The schools are, in fact, initiatives of the local people’s organizations of peasants and indigenous communities since late ‘90s which were put with the untiring support of the faith-based organizations like the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines.  This organization established chapter-communities of church people who are integrated in the apostolate work with the grassroots in upland underserved villages.

That’s why last July 9-10, an island-wide conference was held to launch a policy advocacy-campaign to save the schools.  The conference resolved to demand a halt to the vilification of schools through various forms of protest and vehicles — from local, national and international actions, from legislative measures to mobilization with allies.  The conference basically sought to advance education as a human right.

Following that conference, several months later, the block of progressive partylists in the legislative arena, the Makabayan (Nationalists) Coalition within the House of Representatives led a congressional inquiry in Davao City in November where it convened all stakeholders to probe the legitimacy and security of the schools.  In further support, the ACT Teachers Partylist sponsored a resolution for the Department of Education to initiate a national investigation on the spate of attacks against the alternative learning centres in Davao, Caraga, Bukidnon and South Cotabato-Sarangani-General Santos-Arakan Valley.

While social awareness on the conditions of the schools is aimed at various stakeholders, it is increasingly being appreciated by teachers in the formal education sector.  The campaign was gaining ground, only to be side-tracked by the greater destruction brought about by Pablo’s (typhoon Bopha).  With the physical ruin of the same schools, evidently, the people, especially, the young ones have become more vulnerable to another form of physical elimination, this time due to a catastrophic super typhoon.  This was understood better by the enlightened survivors who attributed the natural calamity’s impact to the five-decade-old operations of logging, cash crop farm plantations and now large-scale extractive/destructive mining, all in the name of super-profits than production for local interests.

Such victimization of grassroots communities take multiple scores as poverty hits its worst form when education among other social factors is no longer a right but a privilege.  For how else could the young people and their adult counterparts in mountainous areas advance numeracy and literacy when support for education has not reached the United Nations’ (UN) standard, that at least 6 percent of a country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) goes to education.  Education budget in 2008 was only 2.8 percent of GDP (ACT Philippines Report 2011). Until recent report, the budget is still pretty much lower than UN’s figure.

Moreover, the tenets behind transformative education lie in its affirmation that education is a social responsibility, i.e., it replicates and develops productive forces.  It views further that education is a function of a social institution that prepares citizens to be members of modern society who are responsive to the needs and rights of the people.  Education, if it is transformative education, treats schools as a socializing institution that advances and consolidates scientific and technological development, again for the interest of the entire society, not only for the few and their allies.  Addressing the basic needs of the children in terms of classrooms, seats, teachers, textbooks and gadgets/facilities for scientific explorations are critical at this stage if only to realize the vast potentials of the majority.

Recognizing alternative schools’ existence even as Pablo has brought more than physical damages is a critical point to credit the quality of responses that the community people themselves have achieved in asserting their rights.  Truly, social awareness has led to a level of social action that moves beyond what Paolo Freire has shared in his well-appreciated book, The Pedagogy of the Oppressed.  The community action that is linked to the over-all struggle for genuine social transformation arms the people with small victories and defies any state counteraction.

On the last note, the production of a teaching-learning material entitled, Developing Capacities in Human Rights Education for Lumad in Caraga, handled by the Asia-Pacific Research Network, Ibon Foundation and the “Caraga Advocates for Human Rights Education” is a work worth mentioning that may help in the campaign against the vilification of alternative education centres in the midst of relief, recovery and reconstruction of the many villages in Mindanao affected both by Sendong and Pablo.

For many, transformative education is just a catch phrase to be in, but hey, it is a framework that will not allow us to produce futures slaves, maintain culture of silence, and increase disempowered citizenry.

I am happy to note that my own brother himself, our eldest in the family, challenged his newly-wed daughter and her husband in a ritual last week, to raise children to becoming “responsible Filipinos.”  I tried to probe that he was serious about such a statement, as being a responsible Filipino means having to develop a sense of nationalism, Filipino identity and culture.  It means a sublimation of the self for the interest of the many towards a true national identity and human development.  Such social commitment, when translated into action, makes us better Filipinos for our country and the rest of the Global South — not as an ASEAN Tiger lately presented in reclaimed status.

Prof. Mae Fe Ancheta-Templa is a women and children rights activist, social worker, peace advocate and chair of the Social Work Program of the Assumption College of Davao, Southern Philippines.  Her fields of interest in research include gender, women, children, Moro and indigenous peoples, psychosocial help, community organization, indigenous social work and social administration.  She was a research fellow at the University of Cape Town, South Africa.

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