MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/04 February) — After close to 10 years of moving from one site to another, the Mindanao Tribal School Inc. (MTSI) has been given a permanent site to pursue education for Lumad youth.
Datu Salimbangun Magdaleno C. Pandian, school president, said a partnership with the Department of Education (DepEd) will enable them to use four hectares of the 8.9-hectare Panadtalan Elementary School in Maramag town for its School for Living Traditions.
He told MindaNews Monday that through a memorandum of agreement with DepEd, the MTSI will be a working model of a school implementing an Indigenous Peoples Education Program under a public-private partnership scheme.
In September 2012, the school faced eviction from its present site with the construction of the transmission lines of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines.
Through the years, Pandian said they have asked DepEd for space over what tribal leaders said was the agency’s desire to integrate the school with it.
The tribal leader said they may be landless but their desire to retain the school’s indigenous teachings is non-negotiable.
He said the partnership will enable them to pursue their long-time desire to provide affordable education on Lumad culture in the province.
In the MOA, DepEd recognizes MTSI’s IPED Program, its School for Living Tradition and other education initiatives for the indigenous cultural communities in Bukidnon.
MSTI will manage and maintain the facilities and spaces within the School for Living Tradition.
It will also provide technical assistance to DepEd’s public schools serving IP learners in nearby communities. The assistance shall be related to the development of IPED curriculum and other matters pertaining to indigenous knowledge and culture.
MTSI will be the one to source out funds to construct and operate the school building of “indigenous design,” Pandian added.
He said nongovernment organizations have already helped them connect with funders.
He said they may open the school year in June 2014 with about 100 more Grade-7 students to add to their present 154 students, adding they hope to have the building ready by then.
‘Indigenous learning space’
Pandian said the school will teach the same subjects taught in DepEd schools but will also include customary laws and traditions.
He said the school building will only occupy half an hectare of the four-hectare area.
“We don’t want it to be just a box-type school. We want a learning space that fits the indigenous peoples’ needs,” he added.
Another half hectare each will be allotted for a playground, wood lot for school use and for firewood, an organic farm, vegetables and root crops, and a dormitory.
The remaining hectare will be allotted for reforestation, including traditional IP herbs and shrubs.
MTSI was founded in 2006 and granted a permit by DepEd to operate as a private school in 2009.
In 2012, 50 of its students were children of settler families around Panadtalan, and 90 are from indigenous communities in southern Bukidnon, mostly Manobo, Matigsalug, and Talaandig.
Bae Alma Binayao, one of the school’s incorporators told MindaNews in 2012 they were worried about the future of the school and the children who look up to it for their education.
She was among the 11 tribal leaders from Bukidnon’s seven tribes who put up the school.
Back then she remembered that many of their youth were accused of misbehaving in DepEd schools.
But she said their behavior was only a reaction to the discrimination that they had experienced.
“We got tired of explaining and asking the non-Lumad not to discriminate. We decided that a school of our own would be good,” she added.
Pandian, who now represents the indigenous peoples in the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, led efforts to raise money for the registration with the Securities and Exchange Commission and DepEd as a private school for the Lumads.
In the present site, the students hold classes in the quarters of the old National Irrigation Authority management office. The hall was divided into four classrooms, all poorly lit and with broken or makeshift walls.
A portion of the hall serves as the faculty and administration room. Another portion is the quarters for students who come from other towns.
Mayda’s family meanwhile had to squeeze into a portion of the old building as his residence had given way to a transmission tower.
Risa Pioquento, acting head teacher, said they have produced three batches of high school graduates already.
But the school barely makes both ends meet, she said, as they collect only P700 per year from the students for administrative needs including production of test papers and printing of identification
She said they stopped collecting the P100 monthly fee because the students could not afford it.
She added they don’t require projects that cost over P50 because they know it’s beyond the reach of the students.
Real Maligatong, 17, a fourth year Matigsalug student from Panganan, Kitaotao, Bukidnon said he could not afford to study in the public school back home because even if the tuition is free there are many
fees they could not afford.
Real, who dreams of becoming a Music Arts and Physical Education teacher, said he has to make good to prove that young Lumads like him can succeed too.
For the school, Real wished that it could be improved with the help of other people so it could accommodate more Lumad students.
“So others will change their outlook about the Lumads. The tribal school can stand, too,” he added.
Aside from the DepEd curriculum, the students learn how to speak and read Manobo and Talaandig. They also study customary laws and indigenous songs and dances, among other things about their culture. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)