All Fired-Up: Students Oppose Tuition Hike in UP

Oct. 10, 2006 photo by  Melody Amor S. Nicolas

Activism is alive and burning inside the UP Mindanao campus as students stayed up until dawn last week to protest the astronomical tuition increases the administrators of the University of thePhilippines system are proposing. Davao Today intern Melody Amor S. Nicolas was there.

DAVAO CITY — It was a Friday night, the last stretch toward the final examination week. But instead of going home to study, some 70 students burned candles on the campus grounds, staying up in discussion groups till the wee hours of the morning.

They marched, lighted candles, chanted agit-prop that cut through the dead hour of the night in that part of Tugbok District where the University of the Philippines Mindanao campus is located. photo by  Melody Amor S. Nicolas

The students did not file for any permit at the Office of Student Affairs but they went ahead, to the surprise of OSA director Dr. Evelina Ayson, who immediately rushed to the campus after learning that students were marching, even building a bonfire.

For the students, the fire they made beneath the Oblation was symbolic of their struggle. The thought of paying 600 pesos per unit, instead of the usual 200 pesos, was enough to keep them fired up. The university has been seeking such an increase. photo by  Melody Amor S. NicolasRaymond Basilio, the chairman of the UP Mindanao University Student Council, criticized the university administration for using “inflation rate, prevailing charges in universities and estimated cost of a UP undergraduate education” as pretexts to increase tuition in all UP campuses nationwide. The increase the university wants is between 200 and 300 percent.

“Whatever the reasons they use for the proposed increase, it is not the duty of the UP students to pay for it but the government’s,” Basilio said.

Currently, students in UP Mindanao, UP Baguio and UP Visayas pay 200 pesos per unit. Once the proposed tuition increase gets through, every UP student in any of these campuses would have to pay 600 pesos per unit.

Students in UP Diliman, UP Manila and UP Los Banos would have to pay 1,000 pesos per unit, instead of the current 300 pesos per unit.

Basilio said a planned privatization of the state university is behind the proposed increase. He lamented that the university is doing this at the expense of students who will have to bear the burden of the cost of education, when education, he said, is supposed to be a basic right and not a privilege.

Students like Basilio also hope the UP officials would see the reason why the proposed tuition increase must be scrapped.

“They did not even bother to conduct formal consultation among the students,” Basilio complained. “They cannot expect the support of the students because that policy (tuition increase) is anti-student itself.”

For her part, Ayson, the director for student affairs, pointed that an “organized process of information campaign” is being done to make sure that all the university faculty, staff and students get hold of a copy of the primer meant to explain the proposed increase.

While she admitted that she herself does not know how the UP system, through its president Emerlinda Roman, came up with the tuition increase proposal, she said she would make sure that the complaints of the students would get the attention of the UP Mindanao administration.

She also said her office is even willing to receive written comments, complaints and suggestions about the proposed increase and added that if students wanted to hold a form with the administration, it is highly encouraged, for as long as it does not cause damage to the university.” photo by  Melody Amor S. Nicolas

It’s not the first time that UP Mindanao students held a mass protest against this issue. In June, the students took to the streets of downtown Davao to protest tuition increase. The protest was timed with a meeting of the University of the Philippines Board of Regents.

Students, meanwhile, are anxious that discussions on the proposed increase would be stretched toward the semestral break of the school year. They see this as a clever move of the UP administration to head off any mobilization of students for any protest actions during the break.

The students think their unity in opposing the proposed tuition fee increase is “crucial” at this point, said Paolo Buela, a UP Mindanao student who is currently the chairman of the National Union of Students in the Philippines (NUSP) Davao City Chapter. He shared his position with students gathered around the bonfire.

Sonny Cirunay, a UP Mindanao freshman who heads the Freshmen Bloc Assembly, said the fact that majority of state university students could not afford to pay tuition fee, let alone a higher tuition fee, agitates them enough to protest the proposal. He urged students to show their opposition in whatever way they can. He said students have to demonstrate the student activism is alive and is crucial in protecting the welfare of students.

By dawn, the fire had finished burning. But embers remained and glowed beneath the Oblation, flickering at the sleepy faces of the students who, on this particular night at least, showed that it was still important to fight for their education. (Melody Amor S. Nicolas/

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