By Johnny R. Lee, Ph.D.
The United Nations acknowledged that providing quality education serves as a backbone in people to escape from poverty and attain continuous economic growth. Significant progress in the Philippines has been made towards increasing access to education at all levels with the implementation of ‘free education for all’.
The Republic Act 10931, known as the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act was signed into law in August 2017 by President Rodrigo Duterte, providing underprivileged Filipino students the opportunity to pursue college degrees through free tuition and exemption of other fees in State Universities and Colleges (SUCs).
The sad truth, however, the indigenous peoples like our very own Sama-Dilaut or the Badjaos seem to be left out – their children could hardly finish even the primary education.
This writer has laid out some measures and propositions on how to extricate the Badjaos from the vicious cycles of poverty.
In Part II of this topic, this writer mentioned education as the key to their socio-economic transformation. It would not be easy as it entails re-structuring the current educational system and the ‘logistics’ that goes with it. The government, as providers, should be able to provide additional capital outlays, manpower, maintenance services and other amenities just like any normal educational institution. But what the heck, the Badjaos, as indigenous people, have all the rights and privileges as citizens of this country and should be given what they deserve. Recalling the statement of Atty. Lorenzo Reyes, Chancellor of the MSU-TCTO, during the Badjao Forum held in Bongao, Tawi-Tawi, ‘it is high time for the government to address the plight of the Badjao to correct the neglect and historical injustices it has committed towards this ethnic group’.
There are technicalities and mechanisms involved in order to facilitate this proposition. The BARMM government and its components like Ministry of Basic, Higher and Technical Education, Ministry of Social Services and Development, Ministry of Public Works, Ministry of Indigenous People’s Affair, the NGO’s/CSO’s, the LGU’s and other support agencies must come together to formulate mechanisms on how to come up with the best strategy and address the long-time neglect and injustices that beset the Badjaos and their communities.
(To be continued in the next issue…)