On Kristel Tejada’s 4th year death anniversary, quest for free education continues

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Senate’s “Affordable Higher Education for All” contrary to youth and students’ interests – youth party

KABATAAN Partylist joins the UP community and the Filipino youth in calling for free quality education and the junking of neoliberal policies on education that intensifies deregulation and commercialization of education in the country.

Youth groups blame these policies for the demise of UP Manila student Kristel Tejada four years ago. Coincidentally, on Monday, the Senate passed on third and final reading Senate Bill 1304 or the Affordable Higher Education for All Act, perhaps with Kristel, and many other students who took their life, in mind.

But four years since her death, the struggle for free public education continues, as students and youth groups from UP and other schools stormed the steps of Palma Hall at UP Diliman and the gates of CHED today.

Senate bill retains high costs of education

The youth party expresses grave concern on the premise of the bill. “While we recognize the Senate’s good intent in passing the bill, we fear that the Senate version risks of restricting access to higher education, rather than making it available to all,” said Elago.

“The State policy to which the bill is grounded is pretext for socialized tuition, in toto–

“Section 2. Declaration of Policy.– It is hereby declared that universal access to quality education is an inalienable right of the Filipino. Therefore, it shall be the policy of the State to make higher education accessible to all, especially to the financially disadvantaged but deserving students by recognizing the complementary roles of public and private higher education institutions (HEIs) and technical-vocational institutions (TVIs) in delivering quality education. Towards this end, the State shall renew its constitutionally mandated duty to make education its top budgetary priority by providing tuition subsidy and financial assistance to students in State Universities and Colleges (SUCs), private HEIs and TVIs.”

Section 8 (a), meanwhile, mandates SUCs to establish a “meritocratic and equitable” mechanism to implement the tuition subsidy.

“Instead of providing free education to the poor, we are wary that such a mechanism might even hinder access to education. Such words have been the rationale behind the socialized tuition system (STS) of the UP system, as well as CHED pronouncements pointing toward a nationwide STS scheme for all SUCs,” Elago explained.

Elago cited data from the Philippine Collegian saying that 1 out of 10 students under STS apply for loans, and 3 out of 4 appeal for a lower bracketing.

Elago added that the STS, and its predecessor Socialized Tuition and Financial Assistance Program (STFAP), has legitimized massive profiteering in UP, through increases in tuition and other school fees. Income generated from students was used to fund the Acacia and Centennial Dormitories. In 2015 alone, UP amassed a total savings of P11.4 billion, a big bulk of which is sourced from tuition and other school fees collections from students.

Section 12, meanwhile, seeks to strengthen CHED’s Student Financial Assistance Programs (StuFAP) system. “The bill actually admits that public higher education will not be free. This provision further gives leeway for schools to still impose and even hike OSFs, under the excuse that these could be waived through financial assistance which students have to apply and prove their worth for,” Elago said.

“It does not address the deregulated nature of the determination of cost of OSFs, which can be used to legitimize collection of redundant, exorbitant and dubious fees and further profiteering,” Elago added. SB 1304 prohibits the collection of “any fees other than miscellaneous and other school fees.”

The Senate bill also provides for tuition subsidy for students who wish to enroll in private higher educational institutions (HEIs).

“We see it as greatly favoring the private sector. It’s guaranteed profit for these private schools. These schools, consequently, will increase their cost of attendance in order to wring out more profit from students,” Elago said.

Neoliberal attacks on education slowly killing us all

“Neoliberal attacks on education only intensified with the change of administration. Deregulation policies on tuition and other school fees in SUCs and private schools remain and are in fact heavily used and abused to justify annual tuition and other school fee increases,” Elago said.

Under the previous administration, a total of six documented cases of education-related suicides have been recorded. Aside from Tejada, among the documented cases are those of:

  • Jayson Masancay, Biology student from the University of the East
  • Rosanna Sanfuego of Cagayan State University
  • Jhoemary Azaula of Eulogio Amang Rodriguez Institute of Science and Technology
  • Nilna Habibun, student from Zamboanga Sibugay
  • Jessiven Lagatic, graduating student of Central Bicol State University of Agriculture

Call to youth: continue the struggle for free education

“This move by the Senate reaffirms our belief that only through our collective action can we achieve and uphold our democratic rights. We now call on the Filipino youth and students to organize ourselves and intensify our struggle for the inalienable right to education,” Elago said.

“Duterte should veer away from moribund policies that enslave the Filipino people to poverty, hunger and social injustice. He has yet to prove that he has the political will to deviate from his predecessors, otherwise, the youth will not think twice to hold his administration accountable for his historical disservice to the Filipino people,” Elago added.

“The youth will be relentless in fighting for our rights. Bigger protests are slated nationwide to denounce neoliberal policies,” Elago ended. ###