This time, no placards and chants: just pompoms and cheers.
Students from various state universities and colleges (SUCs) in Metro Manila are clad in cheerleading outfit and jerseys to call for higher education subsidy in front of the Department of Budget and Management today.
The Student Council Alliance of the Philippines (SCAP), the largest student council formation in the country, maintained that the PNoy administration is still largely underspending when it comes to higher education and may need some cheers as motivation.
“We call on PNoy to shoot a 3-pointer for SUCs before his State of the Nation Address: (1) allocate higher budget for SUCs, (2) uphold and protect students’ rights and welfare and (3) organize complementation of basic education and higher education”, Ernest Calayag, the student group’s secretary general, said.
The president is set to deliver his 3rd state of the nation address in july 23 before the Congress.
The student group, composed mainly of student councils and student political parties in higher education institutions, said that the crisis in education will remain a problem if the fundamental issue of budget is not being addressed. The group also expressed dismay over the $1B dollar- loan of the government to the International Monetary Fund.
“This government has to sort out its priorities. The loan as an extension to assist the Eurozone crisis will only help out banks, not people. This money could have been used to invest on our people by providing better classrooms and better pay for teachers,” added Calayag.
The group also cites the gross over-prioritization on debt servicing. “Why cut on SUC budget when we spend P 372.1 B for debt servicing?” asks Heart Dino, UP Diliman student council chairperson and convener of SUC Budget Watch Alliance.
She argued that the budget problem for SUCs can be solved if the government “gains the political will to reject the payment of dubious debts and loans to international financial institutions and focus on providing welfare to its people”.
Citing data from the Freedom from Debt Coalition, SCAP says that Aquino’s education spending last year amounts only to 2.44% of the Gross National Product (GNP), still way below the recommendation of the Delors Commission under the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) of 6% of GNP.
“There is a rising number of out-of-school young people. The students need to hear PNoy’s commitment come SONA”, urged Dino.
Protect students in campuses
Aside from the problem of accessibility due to lack of government support, the group also claimed that students’ rights violations are being committed against students inside educational institutions.
“A national legislation supporting students’ rights and welfare is long overdue”, quips Akbayan! Youth’s Marian Bahalla.
“Not only do we students contend with higher tuition due to budget cuts, our rights are also being impinged upon by the administration through censorship and lack of consultation on school policies” added Bahalla, a student of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines.
K12 not enough, support HEIs
The K12, which adds two more years to the basic education curricula in schools, does not suffice as an education platform, according to SCAP.
Calayag forwarded that the PNoy administration does not realize that more years does not necessarily add up to quality education.
Higher education institutions (HEIs) need to be supported by the government, especially for young people who want to pursue a college or university degree after high school. “SUCs play a big role in giving more options to young people because they are supposed to be more accessible than private schools”, adds Calayag.
The group suggested that a coordinating body between the Department of Education and the Commission on Higher Education must be created in order to complement the curricula of basic and higher education.
“Extension of basic education does not necessarily solveThe perennial problem of education and job mismatch. What we need is a comprehensive education platform from PNoy that addresses problems in both the basic and higher education sectors”, said Calayag.
“As students, we urge the President to score this three-pointer as he addresses the nation on July 23”, he concluded.
Increase in SUC Budget
During the mobilization, the student leaders were given a chance to have a dialogue with DBM officials.
“There will be an increase in the budget of SUCs this year”, said Ruby Esteban, Regional Director – DBM NCR.
The DBM officials confirmed that at the DBM level, there is already an increase in the budget of SUCs, but this has yet to be approved by PNoy’s cabinet members.
“We welcome this good news, but as student leaders, we will stay vigilant to secure and lobby for higher budget for education until the end of the 2013 budget process “ Dino said.
The group has been able to hand their budget manifesto to the officials and has been able to schedule a meeting with DBM Secretary Abad to secure and continuous lobby for higher budget for SUCs.
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