ALCADEV, TOWARDS ALTERNATIVE EDUCATION

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Marife Magbanua

“ We can’t afford to send our children to formal schools in the town proper. Our source of living relies on  these mountains. I dreamed, that one day, we can have our own schools right here. And I’m thankful  ,it  has happened now”, Nanay Nena in her 50’s and a mother of six  explained  in the Manobo dialect. Her statement  simply reflects how Lumad  in the hinterlands yearn for  education suited  to their condition.

Traversing the mountainous portion of  Lianga, San Agustin, Marihatag and Tago, municipalities of  Surigao del Sur, dwells the almost 30 indigenous Manobo   communities under Malahutayong Pakigbisog Alang sa Sumunod  (MAPASU)or the Persevering Struggle in the Next Generation. These  communities are located sporadically near each other at the heart of Andap Valley Complex, which is known for being rich in natural resources. And for many years, lumad endured  terrible situations brought by threats of development  aggressions. Their resistance to such conditions led them to strengthen  their unity. They have  survived four massive evacuations since 2004. According to Datu Ondaw, “Our  schools became our  inspirations in strengthening our resolve during those tragic days of evacuations. Losing our schools means losing our generations.”

The historical struggle of  Lumad  in defense of their   ancestral land  have cultivated  the sincerity of  community members and leaders in working for the benefit of their tribe. It puts them  in a platform of seeing education  instrumental to their unity. With  bitter experiences   under the  current  oppressive and repressive society, the more they  embrace education   that would nurture  ancestral  land  in the most human way and mold  children  to  participate in creating a  democratic and just world  with critical minds and a creative perspective. Most Lumad in the said communities  prefer to practice and participate in the process of  creating genuine development for their indigenous communities. Education’s responsibility should respond in accordance to this context from   the peoples’ perspective and resolve.

These are the  challenges of ALCADEV in  its educational innovations for the Lumad  youth  that  involves  community members and leaders founded within  the context of their  current socio-economic, political and cultural conditions, which are different  from  usual   mainstream education. Indeed, it is an alternative education with a holistic educational approach that responds to the needs of the people.

 Tailoring curriculum after community’s need

ALCADEV doesn’t train lumad youth into a predictable mindset shaped by a capitalist  world view reflected in a standardized  curriculum. Neither does it shape   them into  robotic minds where their active participation becomes an agent of stagnating communities that do not progress. Instead, learners are trained to  do things that emerge from their life experiences, creativity, active participation in social responsibility  and  genuine and just  democratic processes.

The unique and diverse characteristics of indigenous peoples orLumad  is considered by ALCADEV in outlining its system of knowledge and skills. Lumads are essentially  dependent on their lands in ensuring  survival of their families and communities .  ALCADEV’s goal is to equip indigenous youth with relevant knowledge, skills and values to be able to improve the quality of life in their communities.

ALCADEV designed a specialized curriculum that is culturally appropriate and focused on different  agricultural and livelihood skills. Basic health, teaching  literacy and numeracy and community development work skills are also incorporated in the  eight subjects while  the learners’ intellectual capacities are also enhanced during the four years in  school.

The learning center is a venue for leadership formation. Learners  are housed in the school’s dormitory. They live in a very dynamic way where they can freely exercise  leadership and responsibilities among themselves. The occasional conflicts  within the school are considered part of the learning process for individual growth. Learners are trained to define  school policies, initiate planning and  resolve conflicts based on their  defined guiding principles.

Integrating sustainable agriculture in an alternative learning system

Learners have  to wake up early and  work in the farm every 5:00 o’clock to 7:00 o’clock in the morning. Each  year level is  entrusted with a farm area to cultivate. This served as a venue for them to practice agricultural skills and knowledge learned from  their agriculture subject.

Each learner has their own garden plot to take care every afternoon. The rest of the hours are spent on  academic enhancements. Farm produce is used for the learner’s food consumption in school.  Each year level will focus on a core skill in agriculture. A course on  Scientific and Sustainable Agriculture Farming Management is taught to first year learners. Knowledge and skills in animal husbandry are enhanced in the students’ second year. They get to know more about processes of  organic fertilizers, feeds -making  and pesticide-making in the  third year. Intensification of health  and other appropriate  community development skills are  also given emphasis in this stage of learning.

A special community practicum program  is designed for the year four learners. They will undergo different trainings and workshops for community development work which they are going to  apply  during the community practicum. They can  either be a literacy and numeracy teachers, community health care workers or community para-agriculturists. This is also the stage where learners undergo intensive review on  Accreditation and Equivalency Test, a yearly national examination  conducted by the Bureau of Alternative Learning System-Department of Education (BALS-Dep Ed). Passing the test is equivalent to a formal school achievement.

A 100 percent passing rate was achieved by ALCADEV learners in the  Accreditation and Equivalency Test conducted by the BALS-Dep Ed in the year 2010-2011.This year , the passing rate was 95 percent. A few learners proceeded to college through a scholarship program  but they were determined to go back and participate in community development work when they graduated.

During summer break, ALCADEV  learners organized  summer farm work in school facilitated by the Anyagan Sumisilat Student Organization (ASSO), the student body organization. Learners  from every community grouped together and  spent one week alternately in the school for food production  in preparation for the next  school opening. After complying, they went home and  helped their families and elders cultivate farm lands and livestock, applying knowledge and skills  that they learned from school. They assisted in a food security project  implemented by ALCADEV  to  different lumad communities under MAPASU, TIPJONGAN,  and KAYAPAN-AMIHAN organizations. They joined elders, leaders and members of the community in their organizational plans. They assisted in  establishing both  communal and  individual farms. Lessons learned from their community work are shared  and incorporated in lessons when classes resume.

While agriculture is built-in in the school’s curriculum , the  food security project, the  school’s  outreach program to 36 lumad communities supported by New World has also been  operational  since 2008. Scientific Sustainable Agriculture training modules are  prepared  for  the parents, members and leaders of the communities so that they can  both  assists and  help each other in learning agricultural skills and knowledge during the actual application. The ultimate goal is  to address food  shortage through a combination  of short and long term crops  production.

ALCADEV has already produced five batches of  graduates. They  are directly linked up  with their communities as community as  community  para -teachers, para-agriculturists , community health workers and  organizers. 98 percent of the graduates are now considered resilient community development  workers currently connected with the Tribal Filipino Program of Surigao del Sur  (TRIFPSS), Rural  Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP-NMR), Program for  Mamanwa Integrated Services and Development (PMISD),KASALO Organization,  and LUMAD  CLANS. Graduates called themselves an ALCADEV Agricultural Extension Workers (AAEW)  they formed in 2010.

The integration of sustainable agriculture in  alternative education  has laid the economic foundations of lumad communities under ALCADEV’s project areas. It contributed a  lot to the communities’s food production and in turn, communities’s food  support to ALCADEV and TRIFPSS schools  is increased. It also means that  peoples’ capacity to address food shortage  increased.

The food security program implemented by ALCADEV supported by New World-Belgium  is a great  help in bridging the gaps on agricultural skills and knowledge among learners and community members. ALCADEV believed that uplifting  economic conditions of lumad families will sustain  alternative education in the hinterlands.

The local government officials of Lianga and Surigao del Sur, Belgian embassy representatives, different NGOs both local and international and religious groups have seen ALCADEV’s effort in  empowering indigenous peoples in the province. The forging of agreements between Saint Scholasticas College Manila and ALCADEV as an adopted school  has been made. But still, many concerns lies ahead for ALCADEV in order to fully operationalize  its academic, socio-economic and health component  in relation to the  rising enrollment  every year and its effect to school’s  sustainability.

The education provided by ALCADEV not only improved the lives of individual learners , but  also contributed to increase  the capacity of communities to address the problem of poverty. ALCADEV may be young in existence, but its educational achievement  was done in the context of the  complexities of the current conditions  of Philippine society. The eight years of ALCADEV’s existence   is   proof   that  liberating  education is possible only when embraced by the people.

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