by Teresa Barre
Four days before Kristel Tejada’s third death anniversary, University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman students walked out of their classes to protest against school fees, March 11.
Tejada, a UP Manila Behavioural Sciences student, would have been in senior year today had she not committed suicide on March 15, 2013. This was after she was forced to file for a leave of absence due to her family’s failure to pay her tuition on time.
Following the incident, the UP Manila administration lifted its no late payment policy, only to implement it again months later.
UP also revised its Socialized Tuition and Financial Assistance Program (STFAP) which have set the amount of tuition students need to pay based on their socio-economic status.
Student leaders who gathered at the Palma Hall, however, stressed that the current tuition scheme remains unaffordable for the poor majority.
“Sa halip na tanggalin ang mga repressive policies katulad na lamang ng STS (Socialized Tuition System) sa loob ng ating pamantasan, lalo pang tumaas ang tuition fee per unit nating mga iskolar ng bayan…Ang STS ay isang malaking IGP (income generating project) at hinuhuthutan tayo ng pera para pagkakitaan, (Instead of removing repressive policies inside the university like the STS, students had to shoulder higher tuition fees…STS is a bigtime IGP that milks students of money for profit),” said Rise for Education Convenor Shari Nina Oliquino.
STS is the revised socialized tuition scheme implemented in 2013. Under the STS, student’s default tuition is set at P1,500 per unit unless they apply to be assigned to lower-paying brackets, a P500 increase from the default tuition of its precedent tuition scheme.
Students also protested against other school fees in UP such as registration, energy, laboratory, physical education and NSTP fees, among others.
The March 11 walkout is the second protest by UP students regarding oppressive state policies on education in a month. The first being on Feb. 24 dubbed as the National Day of Walkout wherein students from UP joined those from other universities to protest the impending rise of tuition fees in both public and private higher education institutions.