Honor Her. Finish Your Studies.Fight for a Better Future!

Honor Her. Finish Your Studies.Fight for a Better Future!

Akbayan Youth on the Death of a UP Manila Student

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We in Akbayan Youth express our deepest condolences to the UP Manila community and especially to the friends and family of the UPM student who, according to initial reports, committed suicide due to financial constraints that forced her to file leave of absence.

The loss of life of one student is a loss of many. It is a loss of one student’s dream for a bright future. It is a big loss for that aspiration that through education and hard work one can uplift one’s life and his/her family’s life out of misery and poverty. It is a big loss for a society trying to build itself as caring and supportive of its members.

This very sad incident highlights the necessity to reexamine our collective goals towards education. It redirects our attention to the current state of our education system and to the plight of the youth and students in our country.

We in Akbayan Youth maintain that education is a basic right. Providing accessible and quality education is an obligation of the state to ensure that its people achieve their full potentials and contribute meaningfully to the society. Ultimately, as stipulated in the International Bill of Rights, primary and secondary education should be free and accessible and the state should make progressive actions for free higher education.

A basic step is for the government to follow the international benchmark on education spending for developing countries at a minimum 6% of the Gross National Product (GNP), as prescribed by the 1996 International Commission on Education, popularly known as the Delors Commission. While we laud the efforts of the current administration to dramatically increase the education budget from 2011 to 2013 (PhP 207.3 B, 238.8 B, and 292.7 for DepEd respectively), we lament that it still remains way below 3 % of the GDP, an event smaller figure compared to the GNP. Education budget, in fact, declined from 2.3 % in 2011 to 2.1 % of the GDP in 2012.

The quality of education and school enrollment rate continues to deteriorate with less and less spending on education. Data from both the DepEd and DBM show strong correlation between enrollment rate and government spending on education. Furthermore, only 7 out of 10 students graduate in elementary while 5 out of this 10 graduate from high school, according to DepEd BEIS (Basic Education Information System) in 2008-2009.

Access to and quality of higher education is even worse. The five students that graduated from high school do not necessarily get to enter college. Education has basically been commoditized – only those with money can have access. The barely minimum support for State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) to provide relatively affordable education to the poor and marginalized has resulted to tuition fee increases in SUCs and the lessening of state subsidy. Such is the case of the University of the Philippines and other SUCs. Such is the situation that has pushed one student to the extreme.

We challenge our government to take concrete measures in bringing back the youth to schools. We call for a minimum and mandatory 6% of GNP allocated for education.

While we call for greater state subsidy for education, we also call on the premier national university to intensively review its implementation of the Socialized Tuition and Financial Assistance Program (STFAP) towards the end increasing coverage to poor students. We deplore the University’s policy to force indigent students to file leave of absence for their inability to pay school fees.

Similar repressive policies are likewise implemented in other schools, public or private.  We call on CHED to put more teeth on the implementation its memorandum imposing sanctions to schools on their “no tuition, no exam policy” which is a common practice among private universities and colleges.

We enjoin colleges and universities to establish or strengthen their guidance offices and peer support and counseling mechanisms to provide life saving interventions to students being taken down by stress and pressure for academic and social loads.

To our fellow students, we encourage you to honor the death of the UPM student by being even more diligent in attending classes and striving even harder to take full opportunity of being in school. Let us remember her as we remember our fellow youth, 50% of whom, are not even able to enter higher education. Honor her by finishing your studies. Honor her more by fighting for a better future. Let us reaffirm our commitment to fight for a more democratic, accessible and quality education for all.