Letters from Czechoslovakia: Davao students lament education crisis

By
November 17 2012

According to Palma Gil, the students’ resistance has inspired the establishment of an anti-Nazi students’ coalition in Czechoslovakia and elsewhere.  Now, the commemoration is essentially an observance of the continued contribution of student activism in various reforms in the educational system.

By PAUL RANDY P. GUMANAO
Davao Today

DAVAO CITY, Philippines — Students made a memorable event in Czechoslovakia, an occasion to, again, lambaste the government for shirking on its responsibility to make education accessible for all.

“It is the call of all the students worldwide to have quality and accessible education,” said Penelope Palma Gil, secretary-general of the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP)-Davao during the celebration of the 73rd International Students Day (ISD), November 17.

The ISD was organized to mark a memorable day in 1939 at the height of student opposition against Nazism and fascism in Czechoslovakia.  On November 17, 1939, Jan Opletal, one of student activists who fought for accessible education, was killed.  After Opletal, nine other students and professors were executed while high schools were shut-down.

According to Palma Gil, the students’ resistance has inspired the establishment of an anti-Nazi students’ coalition in Czechoslovakia and elsewhere.  Now, the commemoration is essentially an observance of the continued contribution of student activism in various reforms in the educational system.

‘Roadmap to education crisis’

Youth groups led by the NUSP, Kabataan Partylist and League of Filipino Students (LFS) scored the Aquino government’s Roadmap for Public Higher Education Reform (RPHER), saying it is but “a roadmap to education crisis.”

An Aquino masterplan for public tertiary education, these youth groups argued that the RPHER is the “blueprint of budget-cuts” in many State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) “in the guise of making the SUCs self-reliant.”

In 2011, thousands of students and professors staged protest actions against the PHP 21.8 billion budget for SUCs, which, according to Kabataan Partylist, is PHP 24 billion short of what the SUCs actually need.  Even the Commission on Higher Education admitted that the said allocation would serve only as a “survival budget” and not sufficient to improve the quality of education among the SUCs.

Rendell Ryan Cagula, LFS-Davao spokesperson, said that the “RPHER also highlights the proposed amalgamation of several state universities into one system.”

In Davao Region, four state universities are proposed to be merged into a Davao Regional State University System.

“The merger of several SUCs would mean a decrease in government spending for public tertiary education,” Cagula pointed out.  He added that instead of investing more funds for education, “the (Aquino) government is bent on cutting the education budget.”

“This is a form of abandonment of the State’s responsibility, which, in worst cases, would make education more inaccessible to many poor Filipinos,” Cagula said.

Students from private schools, not spared

“We are also burdened by the highly-commercialized education,” said Ivy Tupas, a second year education student of the Ateneo de Davao University.

She shared that students from private higher education institutions (HEIs) like the Ateneo are not spared from schemes like the ‘No Permit, No Exam’ policy and the collection of exorbitant and dubious fees.  These, she said, add to the burden of the already expensive tuition in private schools.

“We should fight for our right to education. Assertion of our right should continue even up to the next generations until we achieve quality and accessible education for all,” she said.

Every year, the government through the Commission on Higher Education permits private HEIs to raise tuition and other fees as long as they present proof that consultations were made.

But Kabataan Partylist says it received a lot of reports that, in most cases, consultations for tuition hike are not made public and are essentially not consultation but mere presentation of the proposal to increase tuition.  Students are seldom allowed to argue.

Meanwhile, Niel Brene Lopez, coordinator of Kabataan Partylist-Southern Mindanao, described the overall educational system of the Philippines as “commercialized, colonial and fascist.”

“Aside from the high cost of education in our country, our curriculum is not designed to address the needs of our society but to prepare our students for overseas works and address the demands of foreign capital,” Lopez said.

She added that the educational system is also “fascist,” where schools do not provide students genuine democratic space.  “Red-baiting of critical students, threats of expulsion and other sanctions await those who decide to assert and speak up for their rights,” Lopez said.

“The only way to change the country’s educational system is to continue to fight for a nationalist, mass-oriented and scientific educational system,” she said.  (Paul Randy P. Gumanao/davaotoday.com)

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