National Anti-Poverty Commission Secretary Liza Maza today said “NAPC will look for ways to improve children of indigenous people’s (IPs) access to education that is sensitive to IP culture, beliefs, and needs.”
Maza made the commitment after a visit to the Community Technical College of Southeastern Mindanao (CTCSM), the largest Lumad school located in Maco, Compostela Valley.
The visit was part of the 4th Save Our Schools (SOS) Mindanao-wide conference held from March 15-17 to generate support for IP education.
Government officials, lawmakers, academics, students, and representatives of people’s organizations participated in the three-day conference.
“The lumads have the right to education like the rest of us,” Maza said, as she praised the CTCSM’s approach to lumad education.
She added that the CTCSM adopted a “transformative approach, not only developing well-rounded individuals but more importantly, helping build sustainable communities.”
Other than academic lessons, CTCSM lumad students also take classes useful to their everyday lives such as sustainable agriculture, health care in treating common diseases, acupuncture, and herbal medicine gardening and concoction, the NAPC lead convenor elaborated.
“The CTCSM Lumad school’s holistic approach can serve as a model for other schools. I hope we can replicate its transformative approach for the benefit of our IPs, as well as other marginalized sectors all over the country,” Maza said.
RA 8425, the act that created the NAPC, counts the indigenous peoples (IPs) and cultural communities as one of 14 basic sector groupings that the NAPC will service.
As early as 2010, the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) already estimated that about 14 million people belonged to the IPs, constituting about 15.2% of the total 92 million population in 2010.
More than half of the 14 million IPs lived in the Mindanao-Sulu area or a total of 7,165,432 IPs. Of the six Mindanao regions, Davao has the highest IP population at 2,539,767 as of 2010.
Maza expressed hope that the issue of encroachment on IP lands where the school buildings and facilities are standing will soon be addressed and that the school will be able continue its operations without further threat to the safety of its teachers and students.
Child-rights group SOS Network Mindanao reported nine schools that were forcibly closed as a result of military operations as of January 27of this year.