Need for Free Public Education, especially for the Poor
21 March 2013
Kristel Tejada’s suicide last March 15, induced by her forced leave of absence from school due to her poor family’s inability to pay for her tuition fee by the deadline at the University of the Philippines – Manila campus, and the mass student and youth protests following her suicide depict the sorry state of the present rotten and inutile prevailing system’s provision of education for the benefit of the country’s youth and future.
What was behind what happened to Kristal was practically the same thing that also induced another young student, Marionette Amper, to commit suicide a little more than four 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 behimd 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.
Education and the fulfilling of its requirements and support for it are basic human rights and the ruling state has the responsibility and duty to ensure free basic and intermediate education and its adjunct requisites for all at the minimum, as well as free tertiary and higher education based on merit – – and eventually for all.
The highly inadequate, stingy and declining support by the prevailing state for public education and its requisites for the youth and the needy has long been one of the basic problems of the Filipino youth and people.
Education, however, including the fulfilling of its requisites, is a basic human right and the ruling state bares the responsibility and duty to ensure its delivery, including free elementary and intermediate education for all, as well as free tertiary and higher education, based on merit at the minimum and eventually for all.
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 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 profit motive’s interfering with such basic human right, included in the NDF’s 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 all its requisites, so that what happened to Kristel, Marionette and others 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 the 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 the GPH has been stalled because the Benegno S. 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 Agreement 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 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 the GPH on Februart 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 continues to be suspended).