Safe haven or training ground?

ESSENCE - Ligaya Rabago-Visaya - The Freeman

Some schools, specifically universities, have opened their doors to the lumads who were badly affected by the armed conflicts in Mindanao. They need a place where they can have at least a semblance of normalcy, and where they are not threatened by some forces every minute. This normalcy entails the regular access of their children to education.

And as part of their effort to be relevant to the community, the universities. In addition to teaching and research, we have several universities that have maintained a robust program of extension. As a research application, such an extension program is very critical. By using their research outputs, such implementation by community extension programs makes such research meaningful and relevant as ever. Indeed, making the community the recipients of outputs from relevant researches.

The essence of making the university closer to the community and its people and not creating a pedestal, even away from the public eye, of its own walls. And in the end, the idealism of the university, including some critiques of the institutions where it belongs, comes along.

Within a college, there is even a department or unit that specifically offers classes to local residents interested in learning new skills or information, extension programs that are intended to educate entire communities.

In most cases, extension programs are aligned with the vision, mission, and goals of the school, as well as distinct from the local needs of the communities where the school is located through a partnership outside the institution with marginalized communities. The program is a university-wide task in which the entire university constituency has the opportunity to actively respond by contributing to it.

A great example of an extension program is workforce training. Workforce training programs across the country offer working adults the opportunity to learn new technology and to keep up-to-date on new information about their career field.

Recently, however, the universities' lofty thrust has been marred by controversies such as being at the forefront of some subversive activities against the government or bluntly as a training ground for subversive minds, aimed at even overthrowing the government. These accusations have been vehemently disagreed with by universities. But it is the same ground that serves to develop critical minds, minds that would not allow abuses and transgression of human rights, that rights to protect and be protected, and that is not the way for democracy to work.

Those who are in power or tasked with governing have nothing to fear if people's basic needs and rights are provided, protected, and taken care of. If their economic circumstances are taken care of, who would care to oppose and shout their lungs out?

The lumads, our very own brothers and sisters, face innumerable and grave problems such as loss of ancestral lands due to land grabbing or militarization, economic and social exclusion, and threats to their traditional culture and identity. We believe that there is a need to help them in any way possible for greatest happiness in the world, devoid of some ulterior and selfish motives, is helping people we do not know, the marginalized and the disadvantaged.

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