By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
The Department of Education (DepEd) is eyeing the construction of more classrooms and other educational facilities for the Indigenous People (IP) learners in Davao del Norte.
DepEd Secretary Leonor Briones visited Nasilaban Integrated School in Talaingod, Davao del Norte last August to personally “assess the needs” of IP learners as well as the teachers.
“Ako ay pumunta rito para makita ko nang personal ang mga paaralan at makita ko ang mukha ng mga bata at mga guro,” Briones said. “I want to personally hear from them what still needs to be done and to be provided to ensure that education is not disrupted and deprived,” she added.
During her visit, Briones commended the teachers “who regularly brave the terrain just to make education possible for the IP learners.”
Understanding their plight, she vowed that the DepEd will “provide a three-story building with nine classrooms, a dormitory for teachers and learners who live far, solar panels and computers, and a rainwater collection system that will help address the scarcity of water in the area.”
Meanwhile, Talaingod Mayor Jonnie Libayao expressed his gratitude to Briones for “taking the time to visit their town despite its distance.” He also noted that “it’s the first time that a Secretary of Education visited this village.”
Briones said that she agreed with Libayao about the “need to establish a school” that will serve learners from Kindergarten to Senior High School. She also vowed to coordinate with the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) to “establish a community college in the area.”
Datu Gibang Apoga, chieftain of the Ata-Manobo tribe, also thanked the Secretary for visiting and for DepEd’s efforts to improve the IP learners’ access to quality basic education.
According to him, it has always been his “dream that all children and youth in Talaingod, including those who have long been in the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) Haran compound, will achieve their life goals through quality basic education.”
Briones’ visit to Talaingod came weeks after the DepEd Region XI ordered the closure of at least 55 Lumad schools in Davao Region for failing to comply with the standards of the education department.
During Briones’ visit, School head Yuri Jiovanni Colita reported that the Nasilaban Integrated School has “already accommodated the learners” from the neighboring Salugpongan learning centers – where one has been closed and torn down by the community. He added that the “teachers are working to ensure that the learners will be able to advance to the next grade level with the appropriate documents.”
Briones shared that Talaingod was the IP area she failed to visit many years ago due to reported security concerns.
“But now I have proven that this town is peaceful. No less than the Constitution guarantees the right to quality education for all,” she said. “What we want is for the law to be applied in Talaingod, for every learner in the entire Philippines,” she added.