Students led by the League of Filipino Students (LFS) held a candlelight vigil Thursday evening in Manila to commemorate the death of a UPM student who committed suicide last week. Kristel Tejada, a Behavioral Science freshman, drank silver cleaner allegedly after being forced to file a leave of absence (LOA) due to inability to pay her tuition.
Together with students from the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (PLM), Universidad de Manila (UdM), and other youth and student organizations, the LFS organized the activity in solidarity with the rest of the nation staging similar programs of mourning across Metro Manila and the rest of the country.
“While we are deeply saddened by the loss of a fellow iskolar ng bayan, it is not enough that we just mourn for her death. The best way to honor Kristel’s memory is to ensure that no other Filipino youth would be denied their right to education until they are driven to suicide, like what commercialized education did to her,” says Miguel Cruz, LFS Deputy Secretary General.
The LFS has long criticized UPM’s “no late payment” policy and the Socialized Tuition and Financial Assistance Program (STFAP), as these have only served to justify and disguise the tuition fee increase in the state-run university. Due to insufficient funding from the government, state universities and colleges (SUCs) like UP resort to tuition and other fee increases to generate funds for operation.
Students from PLM expressed their solidarity in the fight for government subsidy after their school budget were slashed by 50%, while students from UdM complain of dilapidated chairs and lack of classrooms especially after their facilities were used to accommodate students from the Eulogio “Amang” Rodriguez Institute of Science and Technology, another institution thrown into disrepair because of financial constraints. The student council in UdM is also not allocated a budget by the school.
“As much as the UP administration is guilty of Kristel’s death, more so should the US-Aquino government be held accountable for her suicide. Because of Aquino’s Roadmap to Public Higher Education Reform (RPHER), SUCs like UP are encouraged to further commercialize education in compliance to foreign interests,” claims Cruz.
While UPM chancellor Manuel Agulto announced the suspension of the “no late payment” policy last Tuesday in response to massive protest actions, Cruz warned the students about being complacent because of the announcement.
“We must keep our vigilance in preventing Aquino and his local cohorts from implementing other forms of commercialization, as well as ensure that existing anti-people policies like the RPHER is junked. We can only give justice to Kristel’s death by intensifying our struggle for greater state subsidy and our right to quality education accessible even to the poorest of the nation,” reiterates Cruz. ###