Outrage swells over poor UP student’s suicide

Mar. 15, 2013

“The UP Manila community is deeply saddened with the death of our kapwa Iskolar ng Bayan,” said Mariz Zubiri, incoming University Student Council Chairperson of UP- Manila, in a statement. 

Davao Today

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – It is a day of grief for the whole University of the Philippines (UP) community and revealing of the current state of education in the country.

Friday’s suicide of a 16-year old first year student of Behavioral Science in UP-Manila sparked an outrage from professors, students in all UP campuses and various groups as well.  A system-wide candle lighting was held Friday afternoon at the UP Baguio, UP Diliman, UP Manila, UP Cebu and UP Mindanao.

The victim was under financial constraints following her leave of absence (LOA), said the Manila Collegian, UP-Manila’s student paper.  The victim, the eldest of five children, availed of a student loan last semester but was unable to enroll for the next semester when the student failed to settle an earlier obligation.

The victim’s parents — taxi driver father and housewife mother — reportedly tried to appeal with the university administration but were rejected.

“The UP Manila community is deeply saddened with the death of our kapwa Iskolar ng Bayan,” said Mariz Zubiri, incoming University Student Council Chairperson of UP- Manila, in a statement.

“I mourn for her loss as the lost dream of youths denied of their potential and their future.  Her death only serves as a reminder to continue fighting for and reclaiming lost causes,” UP College of Mass Communications Dean Roland Tolentino posted in his Facebook account.

“It is really sad that this happened in the University of the Philippines and to an iskolar ng bayan.  Our students should not suffer like this,” said Teddy Casiño, Makabayan senatorial bet, in a statement.

Malaki talaga ang impact sa buhay niya ang LOA kasi pati pamilya niya naapektuhan. Since February, hindi na siya pumapasok. Lagi siyang nagtetext sa’kin na hindi niya kinakaya ang problema,” Professor Andrea Bautista Martinez was quoted by the Manila Collegian.

The victim reportedly sought counseling at the Office of Student Services prior to the suicide.

“We are more than grief-stricken, we are enraged.  This was a death that could have been avoided,” said Vencer Crisostomo, secretary general of youth group Anakbayan in a statement.

As many expressed their outrage over the death of the UP student, they, too slammed the “repressive policies” of UP and the country’s system of education.

Makabayan’s Casiño who invoked that “education is a right” said it is deplorable that the country’s state universities and colleges (SUCs) are forced to increase tuition and fees because of inadequate state budget.

The UP Manila, for example, has imposed a “No late payment” policy as its belt-tightening measure.  This caused students to file LOA should they fail to settle their accounts on time.

For Carlos Conde, a human rights activist, “A public university forcing students to go on leave for failure to pay tuition is unacceptable, no matter how you slice it.”  He added that with tuition increasing and policies shifting to favor those who can afford it, “there’s no point to pretend that UP is a public institution.”

The victim was under Bracket D despite her reported appeals for a lower bracket because of her family’s economic status.  Currently, Bracket A students pay PHP 1,500 per unit while students in Brackets B, C and D pay PHP 1,000, PHP 600 and PHP 300 per unit, respectively.  Those who belong in Bracket E are exempted from paying tuition.

The brackets were under the UP System’s Socialized Tuition and Financial Assistance Program (STFAP), a program, which according to Issa Baguisi, national spokesperson of youth group League of Filipino Students (LFS), was meant to justify the subsequent tuition increases.

“STFAP is a nothing but a smokescreen for tuition increases.  It whitewashes the need for higher state subsidy because it can always generate income from the students to complement meager educational government subsidy,” Baguisi said.

She slammed the “undemocratic access to quality education,” which she said is rampant because of the government’s Road Map to Higher Education Reform that mandates the implementation of socialized tuition scheme in all SUCs.

Anakbayan said the Aquino administration’s policy of “commercialization and tuition hikes” is responsible for the death of the UP student.

As the condemnation continues, the UP-Manila administration said it is extending financial assistance to the family.

“As we continue the pursuit of excellence and relevance in our programs and services, we commemorate [the said student’s] life as a student even for just a short time and always remember her desire to be a good student and daughter.  Each of us will react to [her] death in our own way.  [She] has touched our lives in her unique way and for that, we will always be grateful,” the UP-Manila’s statement added.  (Marilou Aguirre-Tuburan/davaotoday.com)

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