BUTUAN CITY – The Indigenous People (IP) schools operated by the Department of Education (DepEd) in Surigao del Sur are now ready for the opening of classes this month.
DepEd IP school coordinator for Surigao del Sur Danilo Alcantara told Philippine News Agency Saturday that the tentative schedule for the opening of classes for the DepEd IP schools is in the third week of September.
“This is only tentative and we are still waiting for changes if there will be announcements from the regional office of DepEd. But the schools are now ready for the opening of classes,” Alcantara said.
The two DepEd IP schools in Surigao del Sur are in Sitio Simowao, Barangay Diatagon, Lianga, and in Sitio Lucnodon, Barangay Mahaba in Marihatag town
As of the last week of August, a total of 54 IP students are already enrolled in Sitio Simowao and 17 in Sitio Lucnodon.
“We expect more IP students to enroll as the opening of classes nears,” Alcantara said.
He said the provincial government of Surigao del Sur has allocated through its Special Education Fund (SEF) budget for three teachers for Sitio Simowao while the municipal government shoulders the salary for the two teachers assigned in Sitio Lucnodon.
“A flag-raising ceremony was already conducted at the DepEd IP school in Sitio Lucnodon last Sept. 1 where the IP children were also provided with bags and other school supplies,” Alcantara said.
He also thanked the Army’s 544th Engineer Battalion for building the IP schools and the 3rd Special Forces Battalion (3SFBn) for securing the construction of the buildings.
In a separate statement, the 3SFBn expressed gladness over the completion of the IP schools and the scheduled opening of classes.
“The IP schools are part of the tangible peace development programs of the Regional Task Force in Ending Local Communist Armed Conflict (RTF-ELCAC) in the Caraga Region,” 3SFBn said.
It said it will continue to secure the schools especially during the start of regular classes.
In July this year, the communist New People’s Army (NPA) threatened to destroy the unfinished IP schools that prompted the government forces to launch security operations that led to a series of armed encounters in the area.
In the same statement, DepEd Surigao del Sur Provincial Superintendent Josita Carmen said the new schools will provide quality education to the children of IPs in Linga and Marihatag.
Carmen also denied reports that the DepEd closed down the other IP schools in the area, particularly the Tribal Filipino Program of Surigao del Sur (TRIFPSS) and the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (ALCADEV).
“Contrary to the false reports that we are closing IP schools in Surigao, the DepEd Province of Surigao del Sur worked hard in opening DepEd IP schools to provide quality education. We did not really focus on closing the alleged NPA terrorist-linked TRIFPSS or ALCADEV schools. Rather, we put our time and efforts to lay the foundation in building DepEd schools so that our IP community can have an option,” Carmen said.
She pointed out that IPs in Lianga and Marihatag have chosen to enroll their children at the DepEd IP schools as shown in the number of enrollment.
Educational organizations TRIFPSS and ALCADEV and the IP group MAPASU or the Malahutayong Pakigbisog Alang sa Sumusunod are suspected of having links with the NPA.
Hawudon Jumar Bucales, the Indigenous People Mandatory Representative (IPMR) of Lianga and Datu Constancio Duhac, the tribal chieftain in the area, also welcomed the opening of classes at the DepEd IP schools.
Both IP leaders denounced the groups that continue to discredit the government, saying that the completion of the IP schools and its scheduled opening this month are manifestations of the government’s sincerity in helping the IP communities in the province.
“We refute and we can prove, without blurring our faces, that the militant group MAPASU, Save Our Schools are spreading fake news saying that the government and the military are abusing the IP community,” Duhac said.
Bucales pointed out that the government and its instrumentalities in Surigao del Sur are working to build genuine IP schools and stop the exploitation of the NPA on their children.
“If MAPASU and Save Our Schools are really sincere, they should have joined and helped the legitimate IP leaders like us in the efforts to bring hope to our children instead of attacking us and accusing us as paramilitary. We will not allow MAPASU, Save Our Schools, and their cohorts from exploiting our children again,” Bucales said. (PNA)