Since 2009, militarization has caused the closure of schools and disruption of classes in the rural areas of Mindanao.
By INA ALLECO R. SILVERIO
The Rural Missionaries of the Philippines-Northern Mindanao Sub-Region (RMP-NMR) recently released a paper premised on the impact of military operations on campaigns for the education of indigenous peoples in the country. It said that in the last decade, the national government has done very little to improve the welfare of indigenous peoples particularly in Mindanao. In the meantime, military operations have also served to undermine the efforts of indigenous communities and people’s organizations to develop their own systems for improvement.
According to the United Nation Development Programme (UNDP), there are between 14 million to 17 million Filipinos spread across 110 ethno-linguistic groups. Most of these ethnic groups are concentrated in Mindanao with 61 percent. Luzon has 33 percent of these indigenous people while the rest are in Visayas.
In a paper titled, “Education and Militarization of Indigenous Communities: Our Experience as Rural Missionaries in Mindanao”, RMP-NM’s subregional coordinator Sr. Ma. Famita Somogod dissected how the national government’s declarations to help indigenous peoples have not resulted in any concrete gains for the the latter.
The paper was presented to the “Indigenous Peoples, Human Rights and Advocacy” Training Program for the Indigenous Advocates in Asia-Pacific in Sabah, Malaysia held from April 23 to May 2 by Diplomacy Training Program (DTP), Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP), Jaringan Orang Asal SeMalaysia (JOAS), and the Center for Malaysian Indigenous Studies-University of Malaya (CMIS).
Somogod said that even as the government has identified education as its priority service, the indigenous peoples of Mindanao view it as a “vague illusion.” She said accredited schools supposedly established for indigenous peoples were built or established in areas far from the communities. Many residents are also unable to pay even the smallest fees, and some of the Lumad children spend their formative years in community alternative learning schools usually established with the aid of non-government organizations.