DepEd shuts down 55 lumad schools

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Davao City (CNN Philippines, October 8) — The Department of Education (DepEd) has ordered the permanent closure of 55 schools for indigenous peoples in the Davao region, four months after their permits to operate were suspended for allegedly teaching "left-leaning ideologies."

“It is with regret to inform you that all schools under the Salugpungan are hereby ordered closed,” DepEd Davao regional office spokesperson Jenielito Atillo said in a media briefing on Tuesday.

He said this was the result of an investigation on schools operated and owned by Salugpungan Ta’ Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Centers.

Education Secretary Leonor Briones ordered the suspension of these institutions in July for failing to comply with government requirements. Atillo said the suspension was also based on reports from National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon that these institutions were encouraging students to rebel against the government.

READ: Makabayan bloc calls for House probe on suspension of 55 lumad schools

Atillo said DepEd's investigation showed that aside from failing to use government-approved curriculum, the Salugpungan schools also bring students away from their homes without parental consent. He added school use the students to generate funds, and the teachers are unlicensed. The probe also found that the schools have been operating in the ancestral domain of indigenous peoples without community consent.

Atillo said the closure order has been received by Mary Grace Matibay, a Salugpungan teacher on Monday. They can still file their appeal.

Some 1,000 lumad students have already enrolled in DepEd-run institutions during the Salugpungan schools' four-month suspension. Atillo said 193 school buildings have been established to cater to the lumad learners.

Salugpungan Executive Director Maria Eugenia Nolasco called on the DepEd to "re-examine these closures and to seek open dialogue with Lumads communities."

“Solutions to complex problems such as those these closures are trying to address cannot be one-note—they require study, cooperation, and a proper assessment of a community’s needs and problems. As such, government agencies must work in tandem to ensure all rights are protected and fulfilled, without sacrificing one for another,” Nolasco said in a statement released on Monday.

The Salugpungan schools were established to give indigenous groups in remote areas access to education. The first school was established in Bukidnon and then spread across Mindanao.