BY PET MELLIZA
Schools are again jacking up matriculation fees next academic year. We are not qualifying the word whether “private” or “public” because both are raising their fees. The latter though is self-contradictory because public schools are supposedly free but the gods of Malacanang and Congress purvey public schools to mean everything but free.
The Philippine government consistently cuts the budget for education and licenses state-owned universities and colleges to sources additional funds elsewhere, particularly, by imposing fees and raising existing ones. Along with that is the implication that public schools can do everything to enforce collections even to the point of forcing students to go on leave for failure to pay the fees on time.
That happened to Kristel Tejada, a first year behavioral psychology student at the University of the Philippines – Manila. She already took the finals and passed them with flying colors but just because she did not pay her tuition and loan on time, the administration forced her to go on leave, seized her UP ID and dropped her from the rolls as if she had not enrolled at all. Her world must have crashed down on her after getting that inhuman treatment from the administration whose ranks was stacked by brilliant men and women in their PhDs and with other glittering academic titles to boot. They too reek of bureaucratic arrogance.
The eldest in the siblings of five who has the luck to enrol in the country’s premier university (that means, also, its hope to pull the household from the quagmire), Kristel snuffed out her young life. Her father is a part time taxi driver, her mother a house keeper.
The P-Noy administration merely perpetuates the tradition of his predecessors of leaving their people to their own devises in sending their kids to school as he continues to perfect education as luxury reserved for the highest bidder. The commercialization of education on one hand, and government budget cuts on the other, make a potent combination that fuels mass despair, which in the case of Kristel Tejada, is solved by sailing to the great beyond where there is some glitter of deliverance.
Commercialization of education became more noticeable in 1982 by the Education Act under the Marcos regime. Despite the public rage and the mass protests it ignited, public education then was many times better than what we have today under a supposedly democratic dispensation. Students of state owned colleges and universities were rightly called “iskolar ng bayan” – on top of the free tuition they enjoyed, they still received stipend and allowances.
Ask fellow Ilonggo senators Miriam Defensor-Santiago, Franklin Drilon and Iloilo Gov. Art Defensor, and they will tell you that had it not been for the free tuition, they would not have become lawyers and attained their political ambitions, courtesy of the University of the Philippines.
Today, enrolling in UP has become prohibitive for low income groups like Kristel Tejada. The student population of the state-owned university is dominated by those who can afford and this state of affairs has made the parking lots of the UP campus identical with those of private universities –as display ground for flashy cars – giving the impression that UP metamorphosed, if not mutated, into a turf of the rich and famous.