3 June 2013 | Press Release
Days before the start of classes, various student groups and student council from universities and colleges, led by Akbayan Youth together with the Student Council Alliance of the Philippines (SCAP), summoned representatives from the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), Philippine National Police (PNP), Commission on Human Rights (CHR), and the National Youth Commission (NYC) to a dialogue today to air out various issues and concerns of the education sector.
According to Akbayan Youth Spokesperson JC Tejano, the students convened the dialogue in order to create a venue for closer cooperation of students and concerned government agencies in addressing student issues.
“Pinatawag ng mga estudyante itong dialogue para bigyang tugon ang mga isyung kinahaharap namin. Sa palagay namin, hindi dahil sa nagpoprotesta kami tungkol sa mga isyung ito ay walang lugar para magkaroon ng masinsinang paguusap. Bukas kami sa ibang mga paraan para solusyonan ang mga problema ng mga estudyante,” Tejano said.
“Gusto rin namin maging institutionalized itong dialogue. Hopefully, we can hold these dialogues every semester to ensure that there is a mechanism wherein we can constantly improve the programs and policies targeting the student sector,” Tejano added.
Among the list of issues tackled in the dialogue include tuition and other fees increases and reports of irregular consultations with students conducted by some colleges and universities.
“The rising cost of education has always been a burden to students, many of whom come from families struggling to make ends meet. We urge CHED to immediately act on this concern. We have also received numerous reports of irregular or lack of consultations with the students in some schools,” according to Student Council Alliance of the Philippines (SCAP) Chairperson Heart Diño.
Students’ safety and security
The student groups also raised students’ safety and security concerns with the PNP especially in the opening of classes.
“Dapat kapag unang araw o balik-eskwela masaya yung karanasan at hindi nag-aalala yung mga estudyante na baka maging biktima sila ng krimen,” according to Polytechnic University of the Philippines – College of Communication Student Council President Cedric Martinez.
“Natutuwa kami na may ginagawa rin yung PNP para protektahan yung mga estudyante ngayong pagbukas ng eskwelahan. Sana itong dayalogo ay makatulong para magkaroon ng higit na pagtutulungan para maaksyunan ang mga insidente ng krimen,” Martinez added.
Martinez also expressed hope that police authorities will likewise exert maximum tolerance during student-led protests.
“Pakiusap rin namin sa mga pulis natin na tiyaking walang karahasang mangyayari sa tuwing nagsasagawa kami ng demonstrations at protesta. Ipinapahayag lang naman namin ang aming mga saloobin tungkol sa mga isyu ng bayan. Ayaw naman naming may nasasaktan,” Martinez said.
Discriminatory policies against openly gay, pregnant, and student activists
The student groups also urged for closer coordination with CHR and NYC in addressing various reports of discriminatory practices being implemented in some schools such as prohibiting pregnant and openly gay students from enrolling as well as requiring students to promise not to engage in activism.
“It is troubling that there are still schools with policies that are blatantly violating students’ rights. The CHR, together with the NYC, must immediately act on them and put an end to such practices,” Diño said.
Tejano said he looks forward to creating stronger coordination between the students and the government agencies to monitor future incidents of abuses and more importantly, to effectively address pressing issues in the education sector.
“Hopefully this partnership can lead to an efficient way of addressing students concerns. We feel this is an important step in expanding strategies and forums that students can use to safeguard their rights and advance their welfare,” Tejano added.
The inter-agency dialogue is being spearheaded by Akbayan Youth together with SCAP. Student council groups present in the inter-agency dialogue are from PUP – College of Communication, University of the Philippines – Diliman, De La Salle University, Ateneo de Manila University, University of the Philippines – Manila and San Beda College. The youth and student groups are hopeful that the dialogue will be institutionalized and convened every semester.###