By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA — Hundreds of students at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines in Sta. Mesa walked out of their classes today to denounce a proposal to increase the school’s tuition by as much as 2,000 percent.
The students, nearly a thousand of them, threw armchairs, tables and papers down to the ground floor and set these on fire. Many of them hanged streamers from the state university’s main building denouncing the proposal.
In a statement, PUP student regent Donna Pascual said the proposal means an increase from P12 to P200 per unit of tuition. “(The tuition increase) is expected to affect all incoming freshmen in the university,” she said, estimating the affected students at about 50,000.
PUP is a state university where most of its students come from the poor. “PUP is supposed to be the most accessible university with its P12 tuition fee. What would happen now to our poor students and high school graduates? They have nowhere to go to,” said Chaser Soriano, student council president.
Vencer Crisostomo of Kabataan Partylist, who was present in the protest action inside PUP, told Bulatlat that the students were asked to bring dilapidated armchairs outside in a symbolic protest to represent the conditions that the students in PUP go through. But Crisostomo said they were surprised when students started throwing out their chairs, tables and even their examination papers from several floors of the school building. “They were agitated,” he said.
The students demanded to have a dialogue with the PUP Board of Regent but only an official from the Student Affairs Office came out to talk to them. The students then burned some of the armchairs on the ground.
PUP was rocked today by protests from students. (Photo courtesy of Kabataan Partylist)
The PUP Board of Regents is set to meet on March 29, where the tuition hike proposal is expected to be passed. But Crisostomo said that PUP has already published on its website an announcement that there would be an increase in the coming school year. “Clearly, there is no consulatation with students,” Crisostomo said.
In an interview on television, PUP president Dante Guevarra said the increase would benefit the students as it would be used to improve the facilities of the university. But Crisostomo said “it is the budget for PUP that should be increased, not tuition.”
Pascual, the PUP student regent, said tuition increase in state colleges and universities is a result of the budget cuts that the Department of Education has been experiencing. In the 2010 national budget, PUP’s was reduced by P43 million. “Now they are being forced to source funds elsewhere at the expense of the students,” Pascual said.
In President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s visit to San Jose de Buan today, she said that education is one of her priorities “because she believes that education is the key to a better life.” But Crisostomo said in a phone interview that this is “a big lie.”
“Arroyo’s administration cannot wait to waive its responsibilities especially in tertiary education,” Crisostomo said. Despite being mandated by the Constitution to have the highest share in the national budget, the allocation for education had decreased in the nearly 10 years that Arroyo was president.
According to the National Union of Students of the Philippines and Kabataan Partylist, 61 other schools in Luzon and Visayas will increase tuition by up to 20 percent by next semester. (Bulatlat.com)