Philippine authorities order closure of 55 tribal schools

Closure follows accusations they are teaching children left-wing ideologies, military tactics
Philippine authorities order closure of 55 tribal schools

Students in Philippine capital Manila hold a protest to call for a stop to attacks on tribal schools in Mindanao. (Photo by Jire Carreon)

Philippine education officials have ordered the closure of 55 tribal schools in the southern region of Mindanao for allegedly teaching "left-leaning ideologies."

The country's Department of Education told the schools last week to explain their alleged links to communist rebels operating in the region.

The schools were denied permits to operate for the upcoming 2019-20 school year.

The suspension order was issued upon a recommendation made by national security adviser Hermogenes Esperon, a retired general.

Education Department spokesman Jenielito Atillo said the move follows allegations made by a former student, who claimed that children in tribal schools are taught how to handle firearms and military tactics such as ambuscades.

Students in these schools were also reportedly used in protests and taught "anti-government ideologies."

The schools are being run by the nonprofit Salugpongan Ta’ Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center Inc.

The Save Our Schools Network, a coalition of church and non-government groups, condemned the order, saying it did not follow due process.

In a statement, the group said it has repeatedly raised concerns on how the military have forcibly closed schools and even forced villagers at gunpoint to destroy school buildings.

Salugpongan said it would fight the "fabricated accusations” to justify the closure of the schools.

"We are saddened that the government’s mandate to recognize and uphold the right of the [tribal people of Mindanao] to an education and self-determination is suppressed by a militaristic approach that further marginalize the [people]," it said.

Even before the the suspension order, only 11 of the 55 Salugpongan schools were operating because of alleged military harassment.

Earlier this year, the Save Our Schools Network reported that at least 85 tribal schools also in Mindanao have been closed due to military operations.

International child rights group Save the Children also reported that conflict in the southern Philippines has displaced 76,383 children. The report indicated that at least 7,200 tribal children were not able to go to school because of armed conflict.

Tribal schools in Mindanao have come under increasing pressure since peace negotiations between the government and communist rebels failed in in 2017.

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