First day of class is the first day fight for students’ rights –STRAW Coalition

This is a press statement from Akbayan Youth.

13th of June—the first day of academic year 2011-2012, young people from the Students’ Rights and Welfare (STRAW) Coalition gather to illustrate the ‘unfree’ education system and jumpstart the 200-day battle for quality and accessible education.

Young people from STRAW Coalition express their sentiments with their bodies locked by a long chain and covered with school receipts to show the confinement of students’ rights and welfare for a long time and the burden of continuing increase of tuition and other fees, respectively.

Chains of campus repression, education deregulation, tuition increase, accessiblity and quality of education are the five issues of education highlighted by the coalition which they said, are needed to be unlocked.

“We are very alarmed by the reports that we have been receiving for the past years.” STRAW Coalition National Spokesperson Leanne Torrato expressed.

A research made by the Center for Youth Advocacy and Networking (CYAN), a youth non-government organization shows that there’s a vast number of students’ rights and welfare violation such as non-itemized miscellaneous fees, discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students, control of school paper, discrimination of student organizations and fraternities, and mandatory charging for review fees, to name a few.

A concrete instance revealed by the study was the case of Aquinas University where the students were obliged to pay for school publication but the students were not able to receive any school paper.

Another documented case was the case of Joseph Carumay, 21, a high school graduate from the Alternative Learning Sytem (ALS) of Makati who was not able to continue his college schooling due to very high tuition which his family cannot afford.

“Joseph’s case is just one of those numerous cases where a student cannot advance to college schooling due to high tuition. This occurrence is merely because of the government’s loose grip in education. This is very evident in the latest appropriations.” Student Council Alliance of the Philippines (SCAP) National Secretary-General Gibby Gorres disclosed.

The government’s summary of appropriations for this year shows that the budget alloted for state universities and colleges amounts to P21.7B compared to the P1.1T allotment for automatic appropriations and debt servicing. The total new appropriations for this year excluding the budget for automatic appropriations and debt servicing amounts to P1T.

The Coalition also hit the K-12 proposal which aims to extend the basic education to 12 years and tagged it as ‘an inappropriate education reform move’.

“The K-12 proposal is good as it aims to focus on the basic education. However, we see this as inappropriate, at least, for the current education situation. Out of 100 elementary students, only 12 of them will graduate because of the problem in the accessibilty of education. Extending the basic education to 12 years will not solve this problem. For that, we propose to craft a national policy that will address the education derregulation and inaccessiblity.” Akbayan Youth Spokesperson Richelle Santiago explained.

The group demands for the passage of the Magna Carta of Students that has been on deck in the Committee on Higher and Technical Education of the Philippine Congress for more than a decade already. The bill has been in the Philippine Congress for quite some time already and according to the group, it seems like the legislators don’t realize the urgent need to pass the bill. In this line, the STRAW Coalition decided to take the campaign for the passage of the Magna Carta of Students onto a much higher level.

“We do believe that it is a grand insult already for this bill to be pending in the congress for such a long time when in fact, it’s one of the most important bills that the government should prioritize.” Santiago expressed. “For the next 200 days, we will join the Filipino youth and students on their continuing battle for quality and accessible education.” Santiago warned.

The STRAW Coalition also committed to constantly lobby for the passage of the bill and conduct series of pressure actions until the HoR hears their sentiments and realizes the necessity of this policy

The Students’ Rights and Welfare Coalition is a broad coalition of different student councils, youth and student groups and individuals all over the country which share a common demand for upholding the students’ rights and welfare and for the passage of the Students’ Rights and Welfare Bill.