In my first week of taking on full-time work as regional coordinator for Kabataan Partylist in Panay, we launched our education rights campaign by confronting the issue of tuition hikes in colleges and universities in the region.
With the seemingly ceaseless rise in the prices of practically everything and the corresponding lack of any significant increase in wages vis-a-vis the actual cost of living, the tuition hikes of 21 private tertiary institutions this opening of classes will surely be an added burden to students and their families.
The Commission on Higher Education Region 6 Office, however, appears hell bent on making the lives of poor families more miserable as the agency kept the names of schools that are increasing tuition secret, supposedly to protect these schools from the threat of lesser enrollees.
This is simply a great disservice to the Filipino people who are already experiencing grave hardship, hunger, and poverty on top of the rising cost of education.
Thus, apart from condemning the tuition hikes, the commercialized state of the educational system, and the lack of government support for education in general, the Kabataan Partylist-Panay also targeted CHED for its lack of transparency and its protection of private school profiteers at the expense of the public.
We wrote press statements which we sent to media outlets, arranged interviews with TV news programs, and phoned in different radio stations every day to present our case to the public. We also mobilized our members and supporters from communities and schools to gather information about the tuition hikes from the ground.
And because of public pressure, we successfully forced CHED 6 to release the list of schools to the public.
This is a concrete gain for the youth and parents. This once again proves that the people and the students’ rights and welfare are not freely given but have to be asserted and fought for.
With the opening of classes, expect bigger actions from the youth and the people calling on the Aquino regime to impose a moratorium on tuition increases, regulate the implementation of school fees, and allocate a higher budget for education.
On May 26, the Kabataan Partylist-Panay will hold the Iloilo Education Summit with Kabataan Partylist Rep. Raymond “Mong” Palatino to tackle tuition increases, unjust and exorbitant school fees, and other education woes.
House Bills 4286 and 3708 are currently pending in congress for the regulation of tuition increases and the implementation of a 3-year moratorium on tuition hikes respectively.
For sure, the youth and people’s struggle for an accessible and quality education is far from over. ■