Duterte allows home studying in Pikit as class attendance drops due to ‘climate of fear’

Vice President and concurrent Education Secretary Sara Duterte talks to students during her school visit in Pikit, North Cotabato on Monday, 27 February 2023. Photo courtesy of the Office of the Vice President

COTABATO City (MindaNews / 28 February)— Vice President and concurrent Education Secretary Sara Duterte has ordered school officials in Pikit, North Cotabato to implement remote studying after a dramatic drop in class attendance marred some schools due to the spate of violence that lately targeted students there.

Duterte visited on Monday the Pikit National High School (PNHS), where a 65-percent drop in class attendance was recorded due the “climate of fear” sowed by the killing of minors, including the fatal gun attack on 13-year-old Fahad Dianalan Guintawan, a Grade 7 student of PNHS and a resident of Sitio Tambak Barangay Gli-gli, last February 14.

The two other companions of the victims were wounded in the gun attack.

Two days later, Justine Ababon, 15, a Grade 9 student of Notre Dame of Pikit and a resident of Barangay Fort Pikit, was killed by unidentified suspects while tending their store.

Ababon was helping that time his parent’s store following the suspension of classes imposed by the local government following the shooting of Guintawan and his companions.

According to reports, the spate of killings was allegedly triggered by vengeance among warring groups.

During her closed-door meeting with PNHS principal Abdulkadir Buda, Duterte was informed that the killing of students resulted in the dramatic decline in class attendance, apparently out of fear for their lives. Duterte was accompanied by Education Undersecretary Revsee Escobedo.

Owing to this, Duterte directed school officials to implement the Alternative Delivery Mode (ADM) or remote learning instructions for children still afraid to go to school. 

“Ang trabaho natin is lahat ng mga takot, patuloy pa rin silang mag-aral sa bahay. So dapat hanapin ninyo yan sila lahat. Sabihan sila mag ADM sila (We must let those cowering in fear to continue studying at their homes. You must look for them and tell them to study under the ADM scheme),” she told PNHS officials. 

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) had expressed concern over the violence inflicted against children in Pikit town.

UNICEF said the Philippines is legally obligated to protect the rights of children under the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Special Protection of Children against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act.

It pointed out that violence and conflict often have devastating consequences for children. 

During her visit, Duterte introduced the PagbaBaGo program of the Office of the Vice President, an advocacy campaign that centers on the importance of education in breaking the cycle of poverty and underscoring the significance of responsible parenthood to ensure that children’s basic needs like education are met. 

The Vice President also visited the neighboring Pikit Central Elementary School, where she emphasized the importance of education and hard work as vehicles for achieving their dreams in life. 

A few hours after Duterte left the town center, another shooting incident that injured a farmer took place in the Poblacion area, a resident who requested anonymity said.

Two days before the visit  of Duterte, a person was killed and another one was wounded when feuding families reportedly clashed in the town’s interior villages.

Recently, additional police and military troops were deployed to augment local security forces amid the violence that rocked the town. (Ferdinandh B. Cabrera / MindaNews)