Leaders from various youth formations headed by Kabataan Partylist and student groups from UP Manila flocked to the wake of the UP Manila student who committed suicide last Friday morning due to her unpaid tuition.
The youth leaders brought messages of condolence to the bereaved Tejada family and called for the scrapping of “unjust tuition policies” that has been reported to be one of the major driving forces behind the student’s demise.
“The youth sector grieves deeply on the death of a fellow Iskolar ng Bayan. This is not just another case of suicide – it is a manifestation of the deeply-seated problems hounding our education system for the longest time,” Kabataan Partylist President Terry Ridon said.
Kristel Tejada, a freshman student of the UP Manila College of Arts and Sciences, is one of the students who were forced to go on leave of absence (LOA) due to failure to settle matriculation.
Tejada was under the Socialized Tuition and Financial Assistance Program (STFAP), which supposedly gives varying discounts on tuition depending on her family’s economic status. Under Bracket D of the said program, she pays P300 per unit, or over P10,000 per semester. In UP Manila, there is an existing ‘no late payment policy’ that forces students to pay their full matriculation upon enrolment or be forced to go on leave.
With the current financial status of Tejada’s family, she was not able to pay her tuition in full during enrolment last November. In the morning of March 15, she was found dead after committing suicide over her unpaid tuition.
“The high cost of education in UP and other universities have continually burdened students throughout the years. Coupled with repressive policies such as the ‘no late payment policy’ in UP Manila, students utterly have no escape in their financial woes. Now, these policies have taken a life. Kristel’s case cannot be disregarded as suicide – the system that has allowed tuition to rapidly bloat has in fact murdered her,” Ridon said.
Next Friday, a funeral march to be attended by thousands of students from various schools will be set for the UPM student, which will pass through major universities in Manila.
CHED, Palace passing the blame
Youth groups also took a swipe on Malacanang’s statement that it is “helpless” on the issue of tuition in state universities.
In a press conference, Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte said yesterday that the Palace cannot do anything on tuition policy as it is the responsibility of the Commission on Higher Education.
“This statement reeks not just of insensitivity but of utter delinquency. CHED is under the Executive branch and the president can in fact make a big difference on tuition policies if he wants to. Instead, Aquino chooses to wash his hands on the issue and do ‘noynoying’ – in other words nothing, to change the situation,” Ridon said.
The youth leader also took a swipe on CHED Chair Patricia Licuanan’s statement wherein she stated that “using Kristel’s apparent suicide to serve a political platform, no matter how valid is unconscionable.”
“To view opposition to repressive tuition regulation as a simplistic political platform is to spit at the heart of the student movement. CHED should just get its act together instead of taking swipe at the public outrage surrounding the death of Kristel,” Ridon said.
The youth leaders urged both CHED and Malacanang to “swiftly” enact changes in tuition policies, stop the unabated increase in tuition, and allow democratic access of students to schools regardless of their financial status.
“The youth demands justice for the death of our fellow student. There can only be justice if the policies responsible for her death are scrapped. Nothing less, nothing else,” Ridon said.###