What do you think of when you hear “indigenous children”?
Unknowingly, some of us might be bearing wrong ideas and images. After all, indigenous people often remain invisible or misrepresented in the media and textbooks.
During our Mindanao visit, we met kids coming from different indigenous communities. Among them are Manobo children.
The Manobo is a group of indigenous people in the Philippines. They mostly live in Sarangani, Agusan del Sur, Davao provinces, Bukidnon, and North and South Cotabato.
In Cotabato, we met Joyce, a 9-year-old Manobo girl.
Joyce wants to break stereotypes.
She wants people to understand that indigenous children are just like any other child – they also deserve a happy childhood.
Not so different
When we met Joyce, she did not seem shy. The little girl was quick to share her dreams and hobbies.
Every day, Joyce rides a motorbike with her dad – since her school is quite far from her home. During such rides, Joyce gets to enjoy an endless view of clouds, trees, and streams.
She loves to read books and play games. At home, she helps out with chores. She also enjoys listening to the stories of her elders.
Joyce’s story is something many Filipinos can relate with: She enjoys being a kid, carries her own set of values and traditions she learned from her community, and of course, she also experiences struggles.
“My mom is an OFW (overseas Filipino worker),” Joyce said in her mother tongue. “She’s been away since I was 6 years old.”
“I miss her very much,” she continued.
Without her mom by her side, Joyce is cared for by her teenage brother and her dad, who serves as a kagawad in their village.
In Joyce’s school, books are few and facilities are old. Among her greatest wishes is for their school’s performance stage to be fixed.
“Manobo children are not so different from others,” Joyce said, smiling. “Language is our only difference.”
“Indigenous children should not experience discrimination,” said Lanie Torato, an officer for Save the Children-Mindanao Office.
“If we discriminate them, we won’t be able to see their potentials,” Torato explained.
In the past, Torato noted that even teachers discriminate. “They think indigenous kids are weaker, mentally and physically, than other students.”
Fortunately, such misinformed views are no longer prevalent among most schools. Efforts on educating the public, however, must continue.
“All children should be treated equally,” Torato urged. “No matter who they are, all children should fair access to quality education and all their needs.”
We at Save the Children want indigenous children to enjoy the childhood their rightfully deserve – free of shame, bias, and abuse.
Together, let’s ensure that indigenous students like Joyce can proudly reach for their dreams!
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