Education as a basic right of the people… of the youth… and even of the poor
(25 March 2013)
A 16 year old behavioral science freshman’s suicide last March 15 was induced by her having been obliged to take a leave of absence from school and to surrender her school identification card due to her family’s inability to pay a previous loan and to secure a new loan from the school and thus her inability to pay by the deadline her tuition fee for the next semester at the University of the Philippine – Manila.
Kristel Tejada’s tragic death was followed right after by mass protests in school of the UP System all over the country and in some other schools in the country.
Practically the same thing also induced another young student, Marionette Amper, to commit suicide a little more than five years ago. Marionette was then an 11 year old elementary school student in Davao Oriental when she killed herself on Nov. 2, 2007. She left behind a letter to her parents, bidding farewell and explaining that what she did was because of her inability to accomplish her school-required education project, because of her family’s dire poverty. In sympathy with her and millions of other poor students and youth suffering like she did, masses of others students and youth waged protest actions in Mindanao, Metro Manila and other parts of the country.
All these depict the sorry state of the present rotten and inutile prevailing elite system’s provision of education for the benefit of the country’s youth and future.
The highly inadequate, stingy and declining support by the prevailing state for public education and its requisites for the youth and needy has long been one of the basic problems of Filipino youth and people.
Education, however, including the fulfilling of its requisites, is a basic human right and the ruling state bears the responsibility and duty to ensure its delivery, including free elementary and intermediate education for all who need, as well as free tertiary and higher education, based on merit at the minimum and eventually for all who need.
Contrary to this, the highly inadequate, stingy and declining free tertiary education on a highly selective basis for the qualified needy youth has been a problem for a great majority among the Filipino youth and their parents, particularly among the more than 90% who are poor and needy.
The widespread furor caused by the casualty in Kristel of the twin “no late payment” and “forced leave of absence” policies made the school administration withdraw these rigid policies four days after Kristel’s death.
But these twin policies were only a couple of flies amid a swarm of elitist, profit-oriented and anti-poor policies of the ruling state.
While, for one, the United nations stipulates that at least 6% of a country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) be devoted to public spending on education, in the Philippines this been limited to only 2%. Moreover, the share of the state universities and colleges (SECs) in the GDP has gone down further from 0.4% in 1991 to 0.29% in 2012.
The program for the people’s rights, welfare and development, that the National Democratic Front (NDF) and its allied organizations are fighting for, includes the state’s delivery of free quality education for the youth and the needy, especially among the impoverished and deprived.
To avoid the elitist system, indifferent bureaucracy and profit motive’s neglecting or belittling such basic human right, include in the NDF socio-economic program is the state’s eventual assimilation of private schools into the free public education system, including at the tertiary level, and giving full support for it and its requisites, so that what happened to Kristel, Marionette and other will not happen again to many more of the country’s youth, who want quality education but have only become frustrated because their families are poor and cannot pay for their continuing education and requisites.
This is just one among many fundamental issues included in the socio-economic reforms agenda of the NDF in formal peace talks with the Government of the Philippines (GPH).
A big problem, however, is that the formal peace talks between the NDF and GPH has been stalled because of the Benigno Aquino III regime refuses to release NDF peace consultants and other participants in the peace talks, who were surveilled, arrested, detained and subjected to other antagonistic acts in violation of their supposed protection by virtue of the Joint on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG), Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) and other standing peace agreements.
NDF Peace Consultant detained at the
Security Intensive Care Area
Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig
(The author is a member of the NDF’s Socio-Economic Committee and is supposed to sit in in the meeting of the Reciprocal Working Committee of the NDF and GPH on Socio-Economic Reforms, but was arrested on the eve of the resumption of the long-stalled formal peace talks between the NDF and GPH on February 14, 2011 and continues to be detained up to now – – in violation of the JASIG. Because of the GPH’s refusal to release him and other NDF peace consultants and JASIG protection holders, the formal peace talks between the NDF and the GPH continued to be suspended).