By Robin Gomes
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) laments the permanent closure of Lumad or indigenous schools by the government in the southern Philippine region of Mindanao, the CBCP News reported.
Bishop Roberto Mallari of San Jose, the chairman of CBCP’s Episcopal Commission on Catechesis and Catholic Education, said the closure was not the best option when the concerned issues could be sorted out.
“I am saddened with the closure of the schools instead of making an effort to improve the education system,” he said over church-run Radio Veritas on Wednesday.
The Department of Education (DepEd) in Davao on October 8 ordered the permanent closure of 55 Lumad schools in Davao area. The decision came four months after the agency suspended their operations for their alleged links to the Communist Party of the Philippines and the rebel group of the New People's Army (NPA). DepEd also said that the schools run by Salugpungan Ta’Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Centers also failed to meet government requirements and hiring unauthorised teachers.
Bishop Mallari said DepEd should have considered the fate of more than 3,500 Lumad learners and teachers who will be affected by the move.
According to him, it was better to have schools, even without fulfilling all the necessary conditions, than no school at all. "Children can still learn if a school is up and running," he added.
He lamented the Philippine authorities’ failure to do the right thing to improve the region’s education system.
Bishop Mallari called on the affected indigenous students to remain optimistic and not to lose hope. “I hope that their situation will lead them to hold on to hope instead of giving up,” he said.