by Victoria Uy
Students of the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman welcomed the first day of classes with calls against neoliberal attacks on education in a protest action at the Palma Hall Lobby, Aug. 9.
Among those raised in the mobilization were problems due to limited class slots, the Socialized Tuition System (STS), and the formerly strict implementation of the No Late Payment policy.
“Pinaglalaban-laban tayo ng UP administration sa kulang-kulang na student services na dapat natatamasa natin,” said Josiah Hiponia, chairperson of the Student Alliance for the Advancement of Democratic Rights in UP (STAND UP), regarding the limited slots for General Education (GE) subjects.
During the enlistment period, certain colleges begun limiting the number of students they accepted into their respective departments.
Since Aug. 2, the College of Social Sciences and Philosophy (CSSP) has exclusively offered the remaining slots for SSP GE courses to students graduating in the first semester.
“Nilimitahan ng college administration ang mga GE courses upang ibigay lamang sa mga mag-aaral na graduating this semester,” said CSSP Student Council Councilor Allyson Maraon, explaining that non-graduating students are at a higher risk of not graduating on time due to failure to obtain SSP GE courses.
“Ito ay isang manipestasyon ng isang neoliberal na polisiya na pinakita ng administrasyong Aquino. Dahil dito nagkaroon ng kaunting pagpasok ng mga freshmen, kasabay nito ang paglimita ng administrasyon sa mga kayang ibigay na classes ng CSSP,” he added.
On the No Late Payment policy issued by the UP administration on July 12, Hiponia explained that students are forced to apply for a tuition loan with 6 percent interest every year.
The then No Late Payment policy prohibited late payments beyond Aug. 5 for registration, dropping, leave of absence (LOA), and residency.
However, as a result of the dialogue between Chancellor Michael Tan and the University Student Council (USC) on Aug. 2, late payments were allowed, provided that students file an appeal endorsed by the College Secretary to the Office of the Chancellor.
Student groups also protested the unavailability of education to those with unsettled delinquencies, and Kenneth Quidem from the College of Fine Arts is one of them.
Quidem, a graduating student of industrial design, was forced to file for LOA due to his tuition loans.
Before studying in UP, Quidem graduated with a degree in information technology in Informatics International College in Cainta, Rizal. Although students pursuing second degree are not qualified to apply for STS, he still appealed for a discount and was granted a full scholarship with stipend on his second degree for two years.
“Dumaan ako sa proseso, wala akong [mga] koneksyon sa UP, at lagi akong sumusulat para mapagpatuloy ang pag-aaral ko,” he stated.
However, during Quidem’s last STS appeal, his full scholarship was dismissed as an oversight, and he was asked to reimburse four semesters’ worth of tuition fee with no discount and monthly stipend, which amounted to more than P120 thousand.
Because of this, Quidem will not be able to receive his diploma unless he pays his accountabilities.
“Nag-LOA na ako para lang maiwasan ko yung mga utang na sinasabi nila. Ngayon problemado ako kasi gusto kong tapusin yung bachelor(‘s degree) ko kaso wala na talagang support,” Quidem added.
Mobilizations calling for accountability and action from the administration are not going to stop soon, however.
“It is time to reclaim the university of the people. Sama-sama tayong lumaban. Sama-sama nating ipanawagan ang libre at dekalidad na edukasyon,” Hiponia said.
Another protest action will be staged by student groups during the Board of Regents meeting on Aug. 25. #