Congratulations, but sorry to say…
They say it’s a jungle out there. Out there, people compete for limited jobs. People compete for food. People compete for money. People compete for survival. People compete unceasingly only to realize that the jungle isn’t out there. The truth is… we’re IN it. In an urge for survival, we are compelled to compete.
Competitiveness is a behavior learned from environmental pressures. It is seen everyday – even in the academic world where people compete for grades, for honor, for recognition – all for the sake of a good future that’s promised only for the competitive. This is the reason why highschool graduates prefer taking courses that are in line with the needs of the foreign market, the gateway to the “promised land.” This is why most people choose to study in premiere universities like UP. This is why people choose to finish college first before working.
Not all people, however, enjoy the privilege to choose. For many, the only choice is to get tugged by the reality that this world is meant for the competitive and fortunate. Take the case of Cherry Holgado, an incoming Sociology student at UP Diliman.
The story of Cherry Holgado, an incoming Sociology freshman in the College of Social Sciences and Philosophy stirred an atmosphere of uncertainty inside the UP community. The usual feeling of excitement and pride of the 2011 batch of students, being one of the few who were able to enter UP, is now being haunted by the fact that a fourth of the UPCAT passers cannot enroll in the University of the Philippines. The top educational institution which catered to the poor yet intelligent youth for more than a century now does not only screen students using an entrance exam also, it chooses students on the basis of who can pay and who cannot. It now seems to cater only to those who have the ability to afford 1000-1500Php/unit subjects and high rising lab fees.
The budget allotment for the university of the Philippines has been experiencing a downtrend for almost two decades now. The disparity between the proposed UP budget and the actual budget allocation has been widening. Protests all over the country were held last year as proof of the students’ dissent towards state abandonment of education.
For 2011, the University of the Philippines requested P18.5 billion from the government compared to P18.2 billion in 2010. UP received a mere P5.5 billion, P1.39 billion lower than last year’s P6.9 billion. President Aquino’s blatant declaration in his budget message that he is “reducing budget in state colleges and universities in order to push to becoming self-sufficient and financially independent”, affirms his skewed priorities.
In explaining financial independence, the Aquino government implicitly encourages educational institutions to find creative measures for funding. Now, UP resorts to various income generating projects such as leasing lands (Ayala Technohub) and project tie-ups with private corporations (GT-Toyota Asian Center) in which UP only gets 25 million per year so, not even enough to supplant the increasing budget deficit annually. But apart from this commercialization schemes, the most sustainable source of income in the university is your tuition and miscellaneous fee.
UP is yet again facing another challenge. With the new Socialized Tuition Financial Assistance Program (STFAP) application scheme, all incoming freshmen and transferees from other schools are set to be in Bracket A (in which a 3-unit course costs 4,500php as oppose to the previous default Bracket B where a course costs 3,000php). In order to be classified as Bracket B one must be able to fulfil a certification form or a more strenuous process of STFAP Application for them to be classified in the lower Brackets.
Since 1989, the UP administration has been using the STFAP to justify the continued tuition increase. This is of course in reaction to again the downtrend budget the government has been giving to state colleges and universities. UP is desperate in trying different measures to augment the lack in subsidy it has been receiving.
In utter desperation, UP even has an online advertisement in its website to lure its alumni to donate to the university under the guise of giving back to the institution which served as their ‘stepping stone’ to success. ‘Successful’ alumni are encouraged to, out of debt of graduate or altruism, engage in the adopt-a-student program of the university.
These band-aid solutions UP has been doing for the past years simply would not cut it. We have been missing the very fact that UP is after all a state university, and therefore has every right to demand for a higher subsidy to sustain its operations and continue its legacy of producing citizens who will aid in national development.
UP’s continued efforts to helplessly make ends meet, atone to the government’s plan for state colleges and universities to “be financially independent and self-sufficient”.
Fight goes on
It is but clear that the crisis on our UP education is not isolated from the crises of the society. It is only the tip of the iceberg. While our parents move mountains to provide us with education, communities are being burned down for foreign businesses, peasants in our provinces remain landless, and the wage of workers remains frozen. We root these social injustices in how the Aquino regime becomes an instrument of multinational corporations and financial institutions to enforce neoliberal policies in our economy. Policies that mean privatization of social services, i.e. education, deregulation of prices of basic commodities and liberalizing the Philippine market with almost no control on foreign corporations in what they can extract from our economy. The politics of this neoliberal order and its enforcement in the Philippine economic system is only possible just because our government remains to be caitiff amidst colonial control.
It is apparent that the fight for education becomes a political fight. It is not anymore a fight of a UP student or the youth alone. It is national fight together with the farmers, workers, urban poor and the rest of the Filipino people. Since the fight for education will only be won if it is united with the broader masses, we can now say that as Iskolars ng Bayan we have a political battle to win and that is to triumph a society where education is truly a right, where farmers have land and the workers have reasonable wages. A society that we are going to inherit.
SCRAP THE STAFP!
ROLL BACK THE TUTION!
FIGHT FOR GREATER STATE SUBSIDY!
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