By JM Ayuste
A few days ago, I was chatting with one Agham Youth member about our organizational principles and concerns. Our conversation steered to the need to establish and instill a culture of scientific inquiry and objectivity while grounding it on the needs of the masses. Since this idea was relatively new for her, I struggled to come up with a very concrete illustration. Fortunately, at the nick of time, I remembered one of the topics discussed during this year’s celebration of World Science Day last month.
Ms. Maricres Pagaran, officer-in-charge of the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (ALCADEV)—an award-winning alternative high school that caters to the needs of Lumad communities—talked about how the Lumad, with the help of the school, pursued scientific and progressive education in the Philippines.
As in the case in far-flung areas in the entire country, Lumad children have virtually no access to formal education in their communities. According to data presented by Ms. Pagaran, nine out of ten children from all 19 major Lumad tribes in Mindanao don’t go to school.
Knowing that it would be futile to wait for the government to provide them with their basic rights, the Lumad themselves took initiative, with the help of NGOs and church institutions, to build the schools that they need. Currently, 162 Lumad schools have been set up to provide learning to 5,948 children all over Mindanao.
What makes ALCADEV and community-initiated alternative schools such as Tribal Filipino Program in Surigao del Sur (TRIFPSS), Center for Lumad Advocacy and Services, Inc (CLANS), Salugpongan Ta’ Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center, different from formal institutions is their scientific and mass-oriented curriculum. It is guided by the principle of serving the interest and needs of the students’ families and communities. Unlike traditional and mainstream learning institutions that encourage students to seek individual growth and academic excellence, these community schools maintain their mission to provide education that aims to preserve and nurture the people’s land for the next generation, and respect their rights to self-determination and human dignity.
These schools teach its students the necessary skills suitable in their local context. It offers them courses on sustainable agriculture, animal husbandry, organic fertilizer and pesticide production, and community health and literacy. In the long run, they have built a culture of giving back, as school alumni take the roles of para-teachers, community health workers and para-agriculturists in their communities, materializing the essence of scholarship –serving their communities.
These sweet victories from a long history of hardships prove that it is possible to transform the current backward and individualist-elitist orientation of our education, and national culture in general—toward an objective, progressive and collectivist one. ALCADEV and all the Lumad community schools are rocks that are determined to hold fast against the raging current of rotten, elitist and colonial mainstream culture.
The Lumad’s struggle against militarization and plunder is part and parcel of the struggle for a just society, one that puts forward culture of love and compassion for our immediate community and humanity in general. We must learn from their example and put forward their ideas, let us struggle for a scientific and mass-oriented culture!
Writer’s note: Currently, these community schools are temporarily transferred in evacuation centers as thousands of Lumad flee their homes due to harassment in their communities. With the destruction of their school facilities, AGHAM launched Lab for Lumad: A Lab Equipment, Apparatus and Science Book Drive for Lumad Schools. For more information, please contact AGHAM at 4164468 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Better yet, let us bring them home this Christmas by calling for the immediate demilitarization of their communities.
Mr. JM Ayuste is a BS Biology graduate and has been organizing science students to get involved in the advocacy of making science and technology serve for the people.
Lab Notes: critical views and incisive analysis on issues in the Philippines, charting ways in making science and technology serve the people.