Philippine prelate condemns closure of 55 tribal schools

Better to have a school operating without all requirements than not at all, Bishop Roberto Mallari of San Jose says
Philippine prelate condemns closure of 55 tribal schools

Bishop Roberto Mallari of San Jose has called on tribal students to remain optimistic. (Photo by Mark Saludes)

A church leader in the Philippines has condemned a government decision to permanently close 55 schools for tribal children in the southern region of Mindanao.

Bishop Roberto Mallari of San Jose expressed sadness over the closures, saying authorities had failed to make an effort to improve the country's education system.

The prelate, who heads the bishops’ Commission on Catechesis and Catholic Education, called on the Education Department to help the schools get the requirements needed to operate.

On Oct. 8, the Department of Education formally announced the closure of 55 tribal schools for allegedly teaching subversive ideologies.

Authorities claimed the schools failed to comply with government requirements and committed regulation violations including hiring unlicensed teachers.  

Bishop Mallari said it is better to have schools, even with requirements still to fulfill, rather than nothing at all. "Children will be able to learn if a school can still operate," he said.

The prelate urged the affected tribal students to remain optimistic and hopeful. "I pray that they remain strong to withstand this heavy situation," he said.

Bishop Mallari said the situation in tribal communities and the closure of the schools should not demoralize the students but "give them more hope."

The Salugpongan TaTanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center Inc., which runs the 55 schools, was established in 2007.

The military claimed the schools have links to the Communist Party of the Philippines and serve as "training grounds" for members of the rebel New People’s Army.

About 1,500 tribal students have been disenfranchised because of the closure order, which came four months after the schools were suspended on orders also issued by the Education Department.

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