DAVAO CITY – With raised fist, student activists and faculty staff of the University of the Philippines Mindanao reminded the graduates to fulfill their responsibility to serve the people and to uphold their roles as “Iskolars ng Bayan” (nation’s scholars) during the 19th Commencement Exercises Tuesday, June 28.
“We should never forget to serve the country,” said class valedictorian Claire Marie Jacinto, magna cum laude of Bachelor of Science in Biology.
“You have graduated from the University of the Philippines… each and every one of us must return the favor and contribute solutions to our country’s concerns,” she said.
In her valedictory address, Jacinto also paid tribute to Kristel Tejada, a UP student who committed suicide after being forced to file for a leave of absence due to lack of finances.
“This year should have been the year of graduation of Kristel Tejada who was killed because of the commercialized education system that we have,” she said.
Tejada was a behavioral science freshman from UP Manila when she was forced to file for leave of absence after failing to pay her tuition.
Her family said they could not pay the P10,000 tuition fee since they only depend on the meager income of Kristel’s father who works as a taxi driver.
Tejada had appealed for late payment of her tuition fee, but had been denied repeatedly. On March 15, 2013, she committed suicide.
Her death caused outrage from students and activists. Several colleges and universities held class walk outs and organized protests to continue pushing for an accessible education.
Class salutatorian, Omid Siahmard, who is also BS Biology magna cum laude, said “this day is for all the parents who worked hard every day so they can pay the high matriculation in UP.”
Siahmard explained that the Socialized Tuition System (STS) was a scheme used as a smokescreen for tuition fee increases.
The Socialized Tuition System (STS), which replaced the Socialized Tuition and Financial Assistance Program (STFAP), classifies UP students through a bracketing system.
Students who fall under Bracket A pay P 1,000 per unit, while Bracket B students pay P600 per unit. Bracket C students pay P400 per unit, Bracket D students pay P200 per unit, while students from Bracket E are exempted from paying the tuition.
Challenge to ‘Iskolars’
“We will leave the university with the principles we have learned. Join the struggle of the people,” Siahmard said.
He said that UP graduates should use their skills and talents for the betterment of the country.
“Let’s uphold our role as the hope of this nation,” he said.
There are 258 students who graduated from the university this year. (davaotoday.com)