By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
The Department of Education (DepEd) on Thursday assured that “education will continue” for Indigenous People (IP) learners despite the permanent closure of Salugpungan schools in the Davao Region.
In a press conference, Education Secretary Leonor Briones reaffirmed that educational institutions that will truly “nurture and promote” indigenous children and their culture are being put in place following the closure of the said Salugpungan schools.
“Whatever we have done, we have done it to protect our learners,” said Briones. She added that closing the Salugpongan schools serves as a “precautionary measure of students’ and the State’s interest.”
Briones noted that the DepEd will continue to step up in its responsibility to IP children and all learners – in general – by protecting them from all kinds of harm. As a response to those who criticize its decision to close down the schools, she stressed that the DepEd shares the same concern for the education of children in indigenous cultural communities which is why the Salugpungan schools had to be closed.
Amid concerns on the fate of the affected learners and teachers in the closed schools, DepEd assured that the learning-teaching process will continue.
On October 8, the DepEd Region 11 has ordered the closure of Salugpungan Ta’Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center, Inc. (STTICLCI) based on the findings of the fact-finding committee created by in August.
DepEd Region XI Regional Director OIC Dr. Evelyn Fetalvero said that they “did a thorough investigation and we did our own initiatives to find our out what was really going on in these schools.” DepEd Region XI data showed that for School Year (SY) 2018-2019, there we 55 Salugpungan schools but for SY 2019-2020, only 28 schools have submitted applications.
Meanwhile, DepEd Region XI Spokesperson Jenelito Atillo clarified that the decision to close down these schools was not only based STTICLCI’s alleged links with the New People’s Army (NPA). Among the key findings, he noted, include various regulatory violations, deficiencies, and compliance issues on the part of the school management.
Atillo said that aside from STTICLCI’s failure to comply with the curriculum standards set by DepEd-11, the findings also showed that the schools violated DepEd’s Child Protection Policy by taking its “students away from their homes without the consent of their parents and used them to generate funds by making them perform in various events.”
Teachers of the STTICLCI, Atillo noted, also “lacked the professional license to teach” or are not passers of the Licensure Examination for Teachers. “Instead, classes of the core learning areas were conducted by learning facilitators which is in violation of DepEd Order 21 series of 2014,” he added.
Atillo also noted that the STTICLCI has been “operating within the ancestral domain of tribal communities without obtaining the mandatory Free and Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) and the subsequent certification precondition from the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP).” Some STTICLCI students, he said, “do not have learner’s reference numbers (LRN)” which is a violation of the requirement of DepEd Order 26 series of 2015.
Furthermore, Atillo said that STICLCI has also “misrepresented its enrolled data and that the data contained in the document submitted to the DepEd do not match with the records in the DepEd learners’ information system.”
Atillo said that there are 1,142 learners directly affected by the closure of the Salugpongan schools. However, out of this number, he noted that 1,000 learners are currently accommodated in other schools and only 142 are considered “missing.”
Briones assured that STTICLCI’s closure “would not affect its learners” because they will be accommodated by DepEd-run schools in nearby areas. Since 2015, DepEd said that there are already 231 DepEd-run schools that are located adjacent to Salugpungan schools.