Statements: Stop attacks against Lumad schools! Respect IP rights to appropriate education!


The Philippine Task Force for Indigenous Peoples’ Rights (TFIP) upholds the rights of indigenous peoples to culturally appropriate and relevant education.

Article 8 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples states:

1. Indigenous peoples and individuals have the right not to be subjected to forced assimilation or destruction of their culture.

2. States shall provide effective mechanisms for prevention of, and redress for:

a) Any action which has the aim or effect of depriving them of their integrity as distinct peoples, or of their cultural values or ethnic identities;

b) Any action which has the aim or effect of dispossessing them of their lands, territories or resources;

c) Any form of forced population transfer which has the aim or effect of violating or undermining any of their rights;

d) Any form of forced assimilation or integration;

e) Any form of propaganda designed to promote or incite racial or ethnic discrimination directed against them

Further, States, including the Philippine government committed at the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples (WCIP) in 2014 to: Ensure equal access to high-quality education that recognizes the diversity of the culture of indigenous peoples.

Indigenous peoples and communities in the Philippines are deprived of culturally appropriate, accessible and adequate education services. The limited number of schools provided by the government to remote indigenous communities does not meet the need of students for relevant education and to become aware of their own history, identity and issues confronting them as indigenous peoples.

President Duterte’s statement that he would bomb Lumad schools in Mindanao is an alarming threat against indigenous peoples, especially the youth. Martial Law has been declared in Mindanao until the end of the year and armed conflicts are ongoing around the country. Lumad schools have experienced attacks like burning, harassment, arrests and extra-judicial killings of teachers and supporters by para-military forces. It is not far-fetched to believe that the President will actually do what he says. His justification for uttering such condemnable words was that the students in these schools are being taught subversion and later on become rebels against the government. This hasty judgment is uncalled for, especially from a president and a former Mayor, at that, who is supposed to know about the situation of Lumad communities.

Even before President Duterte’s administration, the government had falsely branded these Lumad schools as training ground for the New People’s Army. But visits, exposures and testimonies belie the claim of government and its security forces. These schools actually teach Lumad children, youth and in some cases adults, the usual subjects such as English, Filipino , Mathematics, Science, Social Studies, among others. What makes them unique is the content of these subjects and how they are taught, which incorporates indigenous culture, values, the situation of indigenous communities, and even sustainable agriculture in actual farms located in the community. Some of these schools have received awards for their excellent service to the communities.

The students of Lumad schools have a clear and sharp awareness of their situation in their communities as indigenous peoples. They are aware of the effects of large-scale mining, plantations and other destructive projects in their territories. When they visit town centers, cities in Mindanao and in Metro Manila, they are able to articulate their views on what is happening in their communities. This is probably the source of the government’s apprehension of the existence of Lumad schools. Government and private investors in large-scale destructive projects face strong opposition when entering Lumad communities, even among young indigenous peoples. Yes, indigenous youth and students of Lumad schools have developed critical thinking and positive values drawn from their own indigenous culture.

Most of these schools are community initiatives assisted by non-government organizations. Instead of attacking them, these schools must be supported and viewed as excellent complement to the education programs of the Department of Education and local government units. False vilification and harassment against Lumad schools must stop. Justice must be served to the victims, families, students and teachers of the September 1, 2015 massacre in ALCADEV at Han-ayan, Lianga, Surigao del Sur and other attacks against Lumad schools. There can never be any justification to bomb these schools and prevent Lumad children and youth from getting relevant education.

This year marks the tenth anniversary of the adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) by the UN General Assembly. Article 13 of the UNDRIP states:

“Indigenous peoples have the right to revitalize, use, develop and transmit to future generations their histories, languages, oral traditions, philosophies, writing systems and literatures, and to designate and retain their own names for communities, places and persons.” Further Article 14 states: “Indigenous peoples have the right to establish and control their educational systems and institutions providing education in their own languages, in a manner appropriate to their cultural methods of teaching and learning.”

Let us uphold these inherent rights and protect the lives and identity of present and future generations of indigenous peoples! #


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