UP student’s suicide, reflexive of our education system
This is a screenshot from the video of Rappler’s coverage of the vigil and protest over the death of a student.
Today, I mean to set aside my blog backlogs because, much as I want to avoid Philippine political discussions in this blog, this incident strikes me so much as an educator and as someone who had lived with the University of the Philippines’ education system for 8 years (4 years of undergrad studies in UP Manila and 4 years of PhD studies in UP Diliman).
16-year-old Kristel Tejada, who killed herself out of despair because she could not afford to pay her tuition, and I share the same undergrad course. Her story is not new. If I think long and hard, I would remember that I knew of three Kristel Tejadas during my time as a Behavioral Studies major at UPM. Two of them lived and the third one was successful in his suicide. There were probably many others like her in other colleges within the campus that I have not heard about. The only difference between then and now is that we have social media to raise awareness on a national level this time.
My respect for my alma mater runs deep, but so does its problems. The seemingly immediate spike in tuition fee to 300% was a result of long-delayed tuition fee increases. It’s a university that already has difficulty sustaining itself, even after the tuition fee rose to such proportions, and even after leasing out parts of its lands to private sectors. It couldn’t even give my beloved professors the remuneration they deserve for the level of research they undertake and for cultivating in us a sense of academic freedom.
My complaints about the system — mostly minor ones regarding long queues (UPD is notorious for this), repeatedly running from the Registrar to the Cashier and back (2 hour ping-pong game), and having to return almost every week because of requirements (that they would identify some balances here and then another balance there on the second week and then another balance elsewhere on the third week, that only the TOR is available and not the diploma, which I have to come back for, that I have not requested for a certain document that they never initially mentioned, etc. etc.) — are merely the tip of the iceberg. They are nothing compared to the many more serious ailments that I believe stem solely from the government’s apathy towards education.
In short: I blame not UP for this, but the government.
State universities are public schools. With the amount of income tax deducted from my salary as both an industry practitioner and an educator every month (30-35%), plus 12% value added tax from my purchases (including food), plus community taxes, I would like to see these being put to use on our public schools. It boils my blood when I hear representatives of Malacañang claim that they are helpless in light of this situation.
To Malacañang: You are not helpless. I, and millions of other Filipinos in the work force, break our backs to support you and the least *I* want to see is a solution to this.
I have said this before and I will say this again: All of this country’s problems can be traced to our declining education, so pay attention. Please.
…is not how you spend “tax payers’ money on education.”
(Image credits from JV Sayo, who’s my colleague at Asia Pacific College.)
Update: My professor at UPD posted a Facebook status that highlights the multi-layered nature of this suicide problem:
This is something to think about and it works towards not just a singular solution. And I salute these nuggets of wisdom, considering I have also been seeing a lot of victim-blaming online.