The Philippines has the highest drop out rate in Southeast Asia.
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Shekinah Zafra, 20, should have been graduating this school year had she not stopped studying.
Zafra is taking up Education at the Pamantasan ng Montalban in Rodriguez, Rizal. She decided to drop out during the second semester of academic year 2013-2014. “I am an orphan. My relatives are the ones supporting my studies but they have their own families too and I know, even if they don’t tell me, that they are experiencing difficult times so I voluntarily stopped (from studying) especially since prices of basic commodities and utilities continue to increase,” Zafra told Bulatlat.com in an interview.
Zafra’s three siblings also stopped studying after their parents died. She said if tuition continues to increase, the youth is left with no other choice but to drop out.
Citing the 2013 report of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Institute of Statistics, Sarah Elago, president of the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP), said the Philippines is one of five countries with the most number of drop-outs in the world and has the most number of dropouts in Southeast Asia.
The top five countries are: Nigeria (10.5 million); Pakistan (5.1 million); Ethiopia (2.4 million); India (2.3 million) and the Philippines (1.5 million).
“I could have been the only one in my family to finish college. If that only happened, I would help my family too,” Zafra said.
Zafra said higher education institutions should not increase tuition in the midst of increasing costs of everyday living. “Prices of basic commodities and utilities continue to increase while wages have not. How can parents afford to send their children to school?”
Dianna Delos Santos, 16, a high school valedictorian and an incoming freshman of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines, (PUP) said the government should act to stop tuition hikes. She said she could not guarantee that she would be able to finish college even if she is enrolled in a state university like PUP. “There are other expenses like projects, every day transportation and food. All three of us are studying. Even if my father is an overseas Filipino worker, that does not guarantee that we can finish our studies.”
She said her mother died when she was in grade one. Her grandparents worked to help send them to school when her father could not support them. “My grandfather worked in construction and my grandmother was a laundry woman then.”
Zafra also said she too took on several jobs to cover her expenses. “I took several available part-time jobs but it is still did not suffice.”
“I know how difficult it is for parents to send their children to school. If tuition would continue to increase, is there any hope left for the youth? How about the students who have talents, who are exemplary, who deserves to be in school but could not because they could not afford the tuition? Will they be deprived of their education?” Delos Santos told Bulatlat.com.
Both Zafra and Delos Santos joined the protest against the impending tuition hike of private higher education institutions, May 14.
Elago called on the Commission on Higher Education not to approve the application for tuition increase of 353 private higher education institutions. She also lambasted the repression in schools against students who are fighting against tuition hikes, citing the case of the two student leaders of the National University who lost their scholarships after they filed a complaint with the Commission on Higher Education.
“There is no other path to take but the path of defiance,” Zafra said. “Would it make any difference if I work? The system still exists so probably it would still the same. But if I participate in the collective action to fight for our right to education, time will come that we will attain meaningful reform in our society.”