November 17 – Filipino students commemorated International Students Day through a nationally-coordinated protest against school fees, which groups describe as a “monstrous twin of tuition increases.”
Youth and student groups led by the RISE FOR EDUCATION Alliance held various protest activities against school fees, including ribbon-tying, demonstrations, and marches in key cities of the Philippines, including Baguio, Tacloban, Davao, Iloilo, and Cebu.
In Manila, hundreds of students from various universities including the University of the Philippines, University of Sto. Tomas, Far Eastern University, National University, San Beda College, Polytechnic University of the Philippines, De La Salle University, Eulogio Amang Rodriguez Institute for Technology and other schools converged at Liwasang Bonifacio at around 3 p.m. to conduct a protest program against school fees.
In the said protest program, student groups dramatized how school fees have become a “heavy burden” for students and their families through mock ball-and-chains hanging from their necks. Groups also tore images of President Benigno Aquino III and officials of the Commission on Higher Education, who they said were instrumental in implementing the policy of deregulating education, through the continued implementation of the Education Act of 1982 and regulations such as CHED Memorandum Order No. 3, series of 2012.
“Through the years, other school fees (OSFs) have morphed into a monstrous twin of tuition increases. These unnecessary fees are so prevalent that OSFs actually comprise bulk of the total semestral matriculation of students,” read a joint statement of the RISE FOR EDUCATION Alliance signed by over 100 student councils and youth groups that was presented during the protest program.
By 5 p.m., the students lit torches and marched from Liwasang Bonifacio to Mendiola to denounce the Aquino administration’s continuing policy of deregulation, which gave way to the charging of said “dubious, exorbitant, and redundant” school fees.
“We march to Mendiola to hold Aquino accountable for perpetuating this insidious system of money-making through his refusal to implement genuine regulatory rules on tuition and OSFs,” said RISE FOR EDUCATION National Convenor Sarah Elago.
“As we commemorate International Students Day, we must stand united in fighting against tuition increases and other school fees. We must march out of our classrooms and into the streets to demand that the national government backpedal on its policy of deregulation. We must drumbeat to the nation and to the world our demand for accessible and affordable education,” Elago explained.
First celebrated worldwide in 1941, November 17 is commemorated as International Students Day as it marks the anniversary of the 1939 Nazi takeover of the University of Prague, which led to the execution and incarceration of thousands of student leaders, and the occupation of the then Czechoslovakia.