IN separate mass protests, students of the University of Santo Tomas (UST) in Manila and the University of the Philippines (UP) in Diliman, Quezon City, on Friday denounced the high cost of education in the country.
They cited unregulated increases in tuition and other fees that many students cannot afford, forcing some of them to take their own lives as a result of failure to pay for their education.
At UST, students held a unity walk to express their outrage against a looming 5 percent to 7.9 percent tuition increase for academic year 2015-2016.
“It seems the UST administration has not learned from Pope Francis’ words and actions. By imposing a new round of tuition and other school fee increases, UST is far from showing mercy and compassion! The fact that the university accumulated more than P6.4 billion in net assets from the previous year, it is unnecessary to impose any school fee hike. Increasing tuition and other school fees in UST is a socio-economic sin,” Zari Limcangco Rivera, spokesperson for Rise for Education-UST, said.
UST civil law student council president Victor Villanueva remains firm that the tuition and other school fee increases are not development-driven but profit-driven.
“UST collected at least P2.9 billion in tuition, at least P650 million in other fees from students, almost P300 million from ‘auxiliary services’ and at least P200 million from ‘interest income’ and ‘other sources.’ It was also revealed that after all expenses are subtracted, at least P800 or 900 million remains in surplus every year,” Villanueva said.
“We are not against the development of the university, but we insist that the income of the university in any given year is more than adequate to shoulder these costs. Any increase is anything but exorbitant. Our primary consideration should always be the students, the most important sector of any institution of higher learning,” he added.
The National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) also criticized the yearly fee increases in the country as outright violation of education as a human right.
“Education is a universal human right. However, the government policy on education strips the general student population of this right. Education is a right not a commodity. It is high time to junk the Education Act of 1982, which is the root cause why school administrators are liberally allowed to make profit out of students and make tuition and other school fees deregulated,” JC Sibayan, vice president for Luzon of NUSP, said.
At UP, students and youth groups held a blackout protest to seek justice for the death of Cagayan State University student Rosanna Sanfuego and also to commemorate the death of UP-Manila student Kristel Tejada.
“Rosanna and Kristel’s deaths are manifestations of the commercialized orientation of education in the country. Students are deprived of their right to quality and accessible education. It is both saddening and enraging that Philippine education comes with a price tag and that it has become a commodity,” Neil Macuha, UP Student Regent, said.
Sanfuego, just recently, and Tejada, in 2013, were reported to have killed themselves over their inability to cope with ballooning tuition and other fees.
“The students of UP are one with the Filipino people in calling for justice in our educational system. The government should ensure that education is of quality and is accessible to all.
The government should be held accountable over the deregulation of education, which has made tertiary education, both public and private, unaffordable and inaccessible. There is injustice every time a Filipino youth is out-of-school. It is unjust that students are dropping out,” according to Cha France, spokesperson for Rise for Education-UP Diliman, said.
“Injustice is when scholars of the people are driven to take away even their own lives due to the high cost of education,” France added.
“Kristel and Rosanna’s deaths are raging manifestations of the deadly deregulation policies on education and social services imposed by the Aquino administration. Now more than ever, we must act and hold his administration accountable for his negligence on our right to education. Because one death is one too many.”