Supporting community learning centers for indigenous children in Mindanao, Philippines.
Describe the need affecting community
The indigenous peoples in Mindanao largely live in remote mountainous areas. They are among the most socially and economically marginalized communities with limited access to education and other basic services. Illiteracy rates among adults is 70%, 50% among children, and with almost all mothers above 30 years old are illiterate. While some indigenous children have had access to mainstream education, attending these schools has been an experience of exclusion for them. The mainstream educational system is based on a worldview that is different from that of their people. The experience of exclusion stems also from the curriculum and programs that do not reflect and include their context, history, culture, values, their current realities and struggles. In response to the above problems and to eliminate the educational barriers faced by indigenous children, many indigenous communities decided to build their own schools. The alternative indigenous learning institution is community based, and the community is fully engaged in deciding its overall direction and management. The curriculum and program are based on their worldview and rooted in their identity, culture, context, realities and struggle for self-determination. Instruction is conducted in the local language, utilizing indigenous competencies, teaching and learning methods. While these schools have been very successful and a focal point of community life, they are also under attack. The ancestral domains of indigenous peoples house the last frontiers of forest and mineral resources. It is estimated that Mindanao contains USD$1 trillion of unexploited mineral wealth. The Philippine government provides incentives and protection to transnational and multinational corporations wanting to mine the land. Communities that resist the destruction of their ancestral domains are subject to militarization and campaigns of repression. Military operations, harassment and killings of community leaders have disrupted classes, sometimes for months, and have also generally disrupted community life and the production cycle. In a number of cases, military troops occupy school premises, vandalizing the facilities. Troops implementing the military’s so-called “peace and development” programs enter communities and question the existence of these alternative schools, interrogate teachers, brand the schools as “rebel schools” and conduct classes for children, a clearly civilian function. Attacks on schools have been identified by the United Nations Security Council as one of the Six Grave Violations of Children’s Rights During Armed Conflict, constituting violations of the rules of war and international humanitarian law. The presence of soldiers and their detachments in civilian communities are violations of several international conventions to which the Philippine government is a signatory, including the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Millennium Development Goals, and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. There is a need to provide quality, culturally-appropriate education to indigenous children, as well as protect and develop the initiatives and schools that already exist.
How will this Advance project help to address the need?
While the SOS network has had some success in its lobbying efforts and been able to raise material support for the existing schools, the attacks against the community learning centers, their communities, and teachers continue. The lack of access to education in rural communities still persists. The project will focus on three aspects: 1) raising the capacities of indigenous peoples to manage schools and protect indigenous life; 2) expanding the network of community learning centers serving indigenous children throughout Mindanao which will serve an additional shield and inspiration to other communities; 3) cultivating an international support network for Save Our Schools, Protect Indigenous Life.
Describe the primary goal of the project
The project seeks to ensure the continued enjoyment by indigenous children of their right to culturally-appropriate education in a sustained and stable environment conducive to learning in their ancestral domain.
Describe the change you would like to see in the community as a result of this Advance project
1. 1000 additional children will have access to free, quality, culturally-appropriate education in their ancestral domain. 2. Indigenous leaders, especially the women and children will have a solid understanding and deep commitment and active engagement in the defense and promotion of human rights and the right to education. 3. Increased number of regional and local government officials and politicians are open to dialogue with the indigenous communities, publicly speak about the threats they are facing and support policy reforms that ensure the continued operation of the alternative learning institutions and guarantee a just and peaceful solution for the Manobo community.