Protests Greet Opening of Classes, Debt Problem Chief Cause of School Woes

13 06 2007

A nationally coordinated protest action organized by the Youth Against Debt [YAD] greeted the formal opening of tertiary classes today, asserting education as a fundamental right over and above debt payments.

Dubbed as “First Day Strike,” the sad activity is a synchronized week-long protest action of students and out-of-school youth in different schools and universities in Manila, Cebu, Tacloban and Mindanao. [See news article here]

“Because of the “de facto” ‘No money, No entry’ policy o fthe government regarding education, the Arroyo administration seems to be willing to have a country of bums rather than to recieve the ire of international financial institutions and credit-rating agencies,” Lady Lisondra, UP College of Bursing Student Council officer mentioned at the start of the activities.

In Quezon City, an indignation rally was held at the UP Diliman Oblation against the school’s 300% tuition hike. A noise barrage was simultaneously conducted at the office of the Comission on Higher Education [CHED] in Ortigas Center.

In Visayas, a student march was organized in front of UP Cebu. At thesame time in Tacloban, a campus protest tour trooped Leyte National Highschool, Leyte Colleges, Eastern Visayas State Universiy, St. Scholastica, Leyte Normal University, Asian Development Foundation and UP Tacloban. This was followed by an indignation protest action at the Department of Education Office in General Santos City

Student protest actions will also be conducted in JUne 14 and 15 at Eulogio Amang Rodriguez Institute of Science and Technology [EARIST] and UP Manila respectively.

YAD stated that this is just a dress rehearsal for bigger protest actions by the Filipino youth against unwarranted tuition hikes, misprioritization of education and burdensome debt payments.

“The political and economic umbilical cord of our serious debt problem and the dismal state of Philippine edcuation is obvious. Unless the government reverses its callous policy of prioritizing debt payments against much needed social services like education, then the greaterpublic has no choice but to muddle through with the annual problem of tuition hikes, classroom shortages. lack of  competent teachers, erroneous teaching materials on top of  the already exploding numbers of out-of-school youth, Lisondra said.  

YAD said that this year’s budget alone, only P145.9 B is allocated for the education sector, compared to the P 622.2 B earmarked for interest and principal debt payments, forcing record-high hikes in government schools like the Universit of the Philppines [UP] and the Eulogio Amang Rodriguez Institute of Science and Technology.

Tuition in UP increased from P300 per unit to P1,000 per unit. While at EARIST, tuition went from P54 per unit to P100 per unit.

The anti-debt group also argued that one of the government’s strategies in solving the problems of education os by incurring more debts – relying on foriegn loans to finance education needs.”Clearly, we not only have a miserable education system, we also have a debt-crediting education policy,” Paula Bianca Lapuz, Student Council Alliance of the Philippines [SCAP] Secretary General claimed.

Recent reports of textbooks filled with factual errors published by alleged textbook cartels were funded by a World Bank loan of US$40 million. It was reported that the World Bank meddled in the choice of the publisher, rendering the whole transaction questionable and illegitimate.

“The benefits and impact of these loans are highly questionable. Should the populace, now burdened by the increasing cost of sending thier children to school, still be burdened to pay through their taxes an ill-transacted loan which only managed to give their children defective textbooks?” Lapuz quipped.

“In this regard, we are calling all our national leaders particularly the newly-elected to rectify falwed government policies by prioritizing eductaion and not debt payments. We call for the repeal of the Automatic Appropriations Law otherwise known as PD 1177 which automatically allocate funds for debt payment. We are also calling for a comprehensive auditing of all public debts and loans especially all loans incurred in the name of education,” Lapuz said.

“The Filipino youth deserves no less. An unless, our voices and interests are duly registered, the government can expect bigger and bolder actions from today’s generation of young people,” Lapuz concluded.

The said activity were participated by the following YAD member organizations: Student Council Alliance of the Philippines, UP – ISKOLAR, UP College of Nursing Student Council, Alyansa ng Nagkakaisang Lakas ng Kabataan, UP – KAISA, Sanlakas Youth, Movement for the Advancement of Student Power, Youth for Nationalism and Democracy, Piglas Kabataan, Filipino Democratic Student Union, EARIST Student Council, AKBAYAN Youth, Padayon Youth and Kalayaan Youth   

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