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Covid-19 pandemic affects life in Bakwit School

Reference: Rius Valle, Spokesperson, SOS Network, +639276995817

Life tries to go on inside the “Bakwit School” of the displaced Lumad children inside UP Diliman, but they, too, had to adjust to the enhanced community quarantine in the entire Luzon.

A “no visitor policy” was implemented by the university and college administrators in the Bakwit School.

But in the bakwit community, activities still abound for some 100 school children.

Sixteen year-old “KatKat” told us how they spent their time this week.

“May mga film viewing kami, mga gawaing kultural, at mga educational discussion. Pinag-aaralan po namin ang tungkol sa kalusugan, imperyalismo at kalagayan ng Pilipinas noon at ngayon” (We have film viewing, cultural work and educational discussion. We are learning about health, about imperialism and about Philippine’s past and present situation) Katkat said.

A few days ago, Lumad students and teachers filmed themselves making home-made face masks to protect themselves from the spread of the coronavirus (Covid-19).

But Bakwit School teachers still worry for the next few weeks and even months with the enhanced quarantine that could probably cut off resources for the community, and their health concerns.

Rius Valle, spokesperson of the Save Our Schools Network, explained that in refugee camps, it is almost impossible to have ‘social distancing’ as the situation and location are preventing them to do so.

“That is why we are taking this issue seriously. A slight complacency is absolutely unacceptable” he added.

“The spread of the virus here in the Philippines is not on its peak yet and the government is lacking in mass testing. So this is not yet the worst. That is what I’m afraid of”, said Lumad volunteer teacher Jeany Rose Hayahay.

Even Katkat expresses worry not only for her community but for the urban poor that she sees when she is able to go around Manila.

“Sa tagal namin dito sa Manila, nakita namin kung gaano ka rami ang mga walang bahay. Naisip kasi namin na pareho kami sa kanila, pinalayas at inagawan ng tahanan. Nagpapasalamat kami dahil may UP, sila paano na?” (We’ve been here in Manila long enough and we’ve seen how many are homeless. We think we are the same, displaced and deprived of a home. We are thankful to the UP, but what will happen to them?)

Another concern for the community is where to source their food at this time.

“The food and other resources is a challenge in this time of enhanced community quarantine since we couldn’t leave the premises, and so do other individuals or groups who have been visiting us,” said Valle.

“We have been dependent on humanitarian support from different individuals and groups since 2017.”

“We might see things getting worse,” lamented Valle. “Everyone is anxious because of this government announcements that only instill fear and confusion. People need tests. People need to work. But government response to these is to threaten everyone.  This will affect health response and worsen shortage of food and services.”

The group is still thankful that there are groups and individuals who are able to donate goods to them even after the enhanced community quarantine was announced.

“Right now we are seeing different individuals and groups, some we never met before offered to help, from donating food and other supplies to offering transportation, equipment and volunteer work like marketing and such, all in an effort to help Lumad children get through with this,” said Valle.

The group also thanks the UP Diliman community for sheltering the children and providing the necessary health accommodation not just during but even before this CoViD-19 crisis. “In this time of uncertainty, these people, and they are a lot of them, like frontline health workers, teachers, church people, students and scientist, battling this virus, taking greater consideration to the needs of the poor and marginalized, have been reassuring us that during crisis, it is the people’s collective movement that will defeat not just this virus but social inequality and injustices,” Valle said. ###

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