Skip to main content

The University of the Philippines neoliberalist direction commits suicide

The tragic suicide of UP Manila freshie 16 year old Krystel Tejada, a daughter of a cab driver and a homemaker, allegedly due to her family's inability to pay the fees, has caused generated rage from the students, alumni, faculty of the publicly funded national university. And rightly so.

A retired professor emeritus exclaimed "That's because UP has become the university of the rich" "UP has to look into its soul which appears to have been lost"

The particulars of Ms Tejada's death and family's financial status has publicly come out and it is beginning to appear that she just fell through the bureaucratic net. And throughout this the issue of STFAP pops out.

Here I won't be speculating on her psychological state prior to her death. For that is not the major issue here and since I am not privy to her psychological condition. I will leave that to the professional psychologists and counselors, should they wish to elaborate on these.

My question is whether the neoliberal direction and policies of the national university has made the vulnerable fall through the vaunted safety nets. Many neoliberal policies have to be revisited including the much maligned Socialized Tuition and Financial Assistance scheme.

Students as a sector of PH society are vulnerable, financially, emotionally and physically. (How many students have been forced to sell their bodies for tuition fees?) This is because education is in itself a commodity and the production of which requires capital. Education of the individual citizen unlike investments in housing while it  like housing appreciates in value, cannot be resold. Its equity is collective, such as in the general betterment of society where stability is the most precious factor.   Nonetheless,  all heads of government from Venezuela's 21st century socialist icon, Hugo Chavez all even the once socialistic, but meritocratic redistributionist, free market icon and  founding Prime Minister of Singapore, Mr Lee Kuan Yew knew that education has to be subsidized by the state since it is the best way of redistributing wealth. The state has to intervene or even determine the direction of education policies in basic education to ensure the nation  is stable. It is a given that higher education is autonomous in teaching and research. It is but it cannot be autonomous in its ways of profiteering from the vulnerable student sector.  Singapore heavily subsidizes public education at 20% of its national budget.

With this idea of redistribution of wealth through education, does UP's STFAP stand up to this? The answer is it doesn't. Redistribution is not just letting the fee paying subsidize those with a lesser ability to pay the fees. Redistribution means having the wealthy pay more taxes for public eduction (basic or higher) whether their kids pass the UPCAT and attend UP or any publicly funded university, or basic education schools or not. A redistributionist Philippine state would put a VAT on private education services. Anyway a lot of people put a higher brand equity on private education brands and so it is justified.  The United Kingdom has a VAT for private education and so does Ireland and so this is not a fancy idea. Singapore's 7% GST is partly funneled to public education subsidies. Singaporeans who opt to attend a private university will pay higher since they won't have the GST rebates and subsidies.  But with the taxes collected, this would mean the government should put a serious attempt to ensure that public education gets to spend its budget most efficiently.

UP's brand of socialized tuition cements class divisions in the national university. We have heard horror stories of parents and some students demanding privileges because they pay the bracket A fees! STFAP is not true redistribution of educational opportunities. It is another form of noblesse oblige and barely lessens the inequity in educational opportunities. In an inequitable society in UP or outside it, the poor have to face bureaucratic paperwork, a zillion photocopies while the haves can easily pay off someone to to this kind of paper pushing. This is a society where inefficiency guarantees inequity.

The administration says that all are subsidized by the state even the Bracket A'yers. It is true the true cost of a semester of UP education is around 90K PhP and the highest fee brackets pay only 22K at most.

But as former Student Regent Krissy Conti has it "Since when has been subsidizing the rich been mutually exclusive to subsidizing the smart?"

Yes, UP leads the nation on public educational policy and STFAP like policies are being proposed by CHED for publicly funded universities and colleges. Should we expect more tragedies?

It is time to revisit UP's policies and in the near term implement policies that improve student welfare, a department that UP is found extremely wanting. Revolutionary ideas and changes are needed.

But with the death of a freshie, these policies have committed its own suicide. It is not a quick death but a slow one. And we have to ensure it does die, so that a tragic untimely death would not have been in vain.






Comments

Popular posts from this blog

President Manuel Luis Quezon's Code of Ethics

Being a denizen of Kyusi, in honour of the man who gave my city its name and for being the most colourful prez the Philippines ever had, I have the pleasure to post Manuel L Quezon's Code of Ethics on his birthday. Let us profit from the wisdom of the Kastila.

1. Have Faith in the Divine Providence that guides the destinies of men and nations.

2. Love your country for it is the home of your people, the seat of your affection and the source of your happiness and well-being. It's defense is your primary duty. Be ready to sacrifice and die for it if necessary.

3. Respect the Constitution which is the expression of your sovereign will. The government is your government. It has been established for your safety and welfare. Obey the laws and see that they are observed by all and that public officials comply with their duties.

4. Pay your taxes willingly and promptly. Citizenship implies not only rights but obligations.

5. Safeguard the purity of suffrage and abide by the decisions of the…

Simoun's lamp has been lit, finally.. not by one but by the many!

"So often have we been haunted by the spectre of subversion which, with some fostering, has come to be a positive and real being, whose very name steals our serenity and makes us commit the greatest blunders... If before the reality, instead of changing the fear of one is increased, and the confusion of the other is exacerbated, then they must be left in the hands of time..."
Dr Jose Rizal "To the Filipino People and their Government"
Jose Rizal dominates the Luneta, which is sacred to the Philippine nation as a place of martyrdom. And many perhaps all of those executed in the Luneta, with the exception of the three Filipino secular priests martyred in 1872, have read Rizal's El Filibusterismo. Dr Rizal's second novel is a darker and more sinister one that its prequel but has much significance across the century and more after it was published for it preaches the need for revolution with caveats,  which are when the time is right and who will instigate it.

Flame trees in bloom

The hottest summer courtesy of El Nino in at least 10 years gave runners and walkers in the University of the Philippines Diliman campus a visual treat. This year the flame trees Delonix regia are in full bloom!
In past summers it wasn't as hot and dry so the trees did not shed their leaves and few blooms were produced.
It is the tropical version of the Japanese Hanami or the Cherry blossom viewing season. While Hanami tells us the fragile impermanence of beauty, the flame tree hanami tells us that summer burns but soon it will all be over.