Thousands of students walked out of their classes and marched to Mendiola today to commemorate the tragic death of University of the Philippines student Kristel Tejada three years ago and decry the highly commercialized education under the Aquino administration.
“Education has become so expensive under Aquino that many students become dropouts or are pushed to desperation like Kristel Tejada. Literal na nakakamatay ang sistema ng edukasyon sa ilalim ni Aquino,” said Anakbayan National Chair Vencer Crisostomo.
He said there are at least 5 documented education-related suicides under Aquino, the latest of which is that of Jessiven Lagatic of the Central Bicol State University of Agriculture who took his own life last month after he lost his 4Ps scholarship.
The other three are Rosanna Sanfuego of the Cagayan State University (CSU), Johomary Azuala of the Eulogio Amang Rodriguez Institute of Science and Technology (EARIST), and Nilna Habibun from Zamboanga Sibugay.
The protesting students carried tombstone placards with the lines “RIP accessible and affordable education” and “Edukasyon sa ilalim ni Aquino: nakakamatay” in reference to Tejada who committed suicide when she was forced to stop schooling after failing to pay her tuition.
They also wore graduation caps with price tags containing the price of tuition and other school fees to stress how average annual tuition rates have risen under Aquino from P30,000-50,000 in 2010 to over P60,000-100,000 at present.
The protesters also bore life-sized crosses with the words “commercialization”, “education deregulation,” and “K-12 program” which they say continue to be a great burden weighing down on the pockets of students and their families.
Anakbayan is pressing the Aquino government to issue a moratorium on tuition and other school fee hikes. It is also calling for the scrapping of CHED Memo Order 3, Series of 2012 which allows schools to increase fees as long as they submit the required documents.
The group moreover reiterated its stand for the immediate stopping of the implementation of the K-12 program, which they say represents an additional two year financial burden and greater hardship for students and their parents.
Anakbayan is calling for the immediate junking of the education deregulation policy through the immediate scrapping of the Education Act of 1982 which allows universities and colleges to set their own tuition rates without any government regulation.
Anakbayan also called on presidential candidates to end tuition increases and vow to reverse Aquino’s “neoliberal” education reforms which led to “skyrocketing” tuition rates.
Students from the Polytechnic University of the Philippines, UP Manila and Diliman, University of Santo Tomas, and other big schools in Metro Manila as well as youth groups from Baguio, Cebu, Iloilo and Los Baños joined the nationwide walkout.
Reference: Vencer Crisostomo, @venzie, 09399207114