By RONJAY MENDIOLA and MIKHAELA EMY SALLE
MANILA – Students from state universities are calling for higher budgets for science laboratories, classrooms, and equipment amid expectations of excellence.
“Expectations are high for us to perform excellently in classes and examinations, but we do not have enough classrooms and science laboratories,” said Miggy Abangan, a fourth-year biology student at the Rizal Technological University (RTU).
RTU is a state university located in Mandaluyong City. It has a population of 28,013 students as of 2022. Among their program offerings include engineering and architecture, among others.
Abangan, who is also the president of RTU Central Student Council and the University’s Student Regent, said he tries to keep up with his classwork despite the inadequate facilities and lack of a proper laboratory in their university.
In the proposed 2024 budget, however, RTU is one of 30 state universities and colleges (SUCs) that is slated to face a budget cut of P86.94 million ($1.53 million).
Next year, some 30 state universities and colleges are facing budget cuts. This has recently prompted about 36 SUC presidents to issue a unity statement calling for the increase in allocation in the 2024 proposed budget. The joint statement was published by Kabataan Partylist last Sept. 23.
“If the classrooms and labs are no longer functional, this budget cut will worsen the current state. I disagree with this [budget cut] because it will reduce the number of students that the university can accept, defeating the purpose of free higher education for all,” he added.
Computer science is not ‘computer-ing’
The situation is shared by the Technological University of the Philippines (TUP), a 122-year-old public state university in Manila that has over 19,000 students enrolled in 2022. The university, as one of the country’s top technological universities, is well-known for its specialization programs such as computer science.
For Kristel Espanillo, a third-year student at TUP-Manila, however, access to decent equipment is very lacking.
“Based on my observations, I can say that our facilities are unable to fully support their students, especially in the Computer Studies Department. Our department does not have enough rooms, laboratories, and equipment that we can use during our classes,” said Espanillo.
She emphasized the lack of computers and other laboratory equipment used in their curriculum.
“Laboratories and facilities can make the environment more conducive to learning, motivating and inspiring us to work harder in our studies. But how can we study well if the resources are lacking?” she said.
Espanillo also shared that despite her program—Information Technology being inclined toward computers; she has never set foot in their computer lab ever since she started studying at TUP due its the poor ventilation and the hazardous outlets.
“I think our department’s needs are being neglected by the university. We are simply not a priority. When the face-to-face class was first implemented, there was a lack of classroom which is definitely concerning,” she added.
Not enough budget
Both RTU and TUP have inconsistent budgets for Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses (MOOE) and Capital Outlay (CO).
According to DBM, MOOE are expenses for supplies and materials, transportation and travel, utilities (water, power, etc.), and repairs, among other things, that support the operations of government agencies. While CO are expenditure categories/expense classes for purchasing goods and services, the benefits of which persist beyond the fiscal year and add to the Government’s assets.
RTU’s capital outlay (CO) increased significantly in 2020 to P1.022 billion ($18.01 million) due to the renovation and establishment of new facilities in its campuses, particularly in Baras, Rizal Campus, and Occidental Mindoro Campus but the average CO from 2016 to 2022 is only P192.8 million ($3.4 million).
Due to the government’s low budget allocation for SUCs, it is apparent that Abangan and Espanillo will continue to have problems with laboratories and equipment.
“It is clear that the Marcos-Duterte administration’s focus is not education, but rather personal interest. Education is a right, and we should no longer beg for classrooms and equipment,” said Abangan.
Espanillo calls for a transparency plan and equipment maintenance for each college to ensure that every equipment can be utilized by the students.
Johanna Kelly Seras from Agham Youth said that the government should invest in laboratory equipment and facilities, and other necessary resources in universities for the development of science and technology education.
“If the government continues to fail in doing this, our country will also fail in encouraging innovation and in contributing to research and development across various fields that can help address pressing societal challenges like climate change and healthcare,” said Seras. (JJE, RTS, RVO)