Uphold the Right to Education: Fight for a Higher Budget for Social Services

All over the world, mass movements against worsening poverty, social inequality and government budget cuts for education and social services are unfolding daily.

These popular uprisings have risen up against dictatorial regimes and the dominant economic system that has concentrated the world’s wealth to the top one percent while the remaining 99 percent remains mired in exploitation and oppression.

President Noynoy Aquino’s “matuwid na daan” has turned out to be no different from the path taken by Arroyo, Marcos, and other presidents before him by prioritizing the foreign banks and monopolies of this one percent over the needs of the Filipino people.

Anti-People Budget

P735.6 billion or 40% of the proposed P1.8 trillion 2012 budget is allotted for interest and principal payments for foreign debts instead of providing for the meager funds for education, health, and other social services.

Cash dole-outs like the Conditional Cash Transfers (CCTs) that are borrowed from foreign banks like the Asian Development Bank and World Bank are meanwhile presented as the solution to poverty instead of long-term programs like land reform, national industrialization and higher social services spending.

The Aquino government is reducing subsidy to State Universities and Colleges (SUCs), in President Aquino’s own words, “to push them toward becoming self-sufficient and financially independent, given their ability to raise their income and to utilize it for their programs and projects.”

Meanwhile, the P238 billion for basic education is short of P115 billion needed to address shortages of teachers, classrooms, chairs, desks, and textbooks. The combined spending for education will only total 2.7% of the gross domestic product (GDP), less than half the requirement by the United Nations of 6% GDP spending for education.

Education Crisis

Aquino’s budget cuts will only worsen the commercialization of education by forcing SUCs to resort to income-generating schemes including tuition and other fees like the P1,000 computer fee in the WVSU and the P1,500 student development fee in the WVCST.

UP Visayas is the most expensive school in the Visayas. Under its socialized tuition system, a student is assumed to be capable of paying the P1,000 per unit tuition. S/he must first undergo a tedious process to avail lower tuition rates. Hence, only 13.65% of the student population avail of free tuition while at least 55.98% of UPV students pay P600 to P1,000 per unit tuition.

The fight for a higher education budget is therefore not limited to the youth sector. The poor peasants, workers, professionals, and small businessmen – the 99% of Philippine society – will find it more difficult to send their children to school amidst the worsening hunger, joblessness and rising cost of basic goods.

Education under the present setup has become a business. It is no longer a right but a commodity available only for those who can afford, with only 1 college graduate for every 10 students who enter grade 1. It moreover continues to cater to the needs of foreign powers. Education produces cheap laborers to multinational corporations and promotes blind praise and subservience to anything foreign. Students are trained to become passive and indifferent to social injustices while their rights to organize and freedom of expression are repressed.

As long as Philippine society remains shackled by foreign powers and the ruling elites, the Philippine educational system will remain commercialized, colonial, and reactionary. The fight for a truly nationalist, scientific, and mass-oriented education must hence be anchored on the struggle of the entire Filipino people for greater social transformation.

December 8 Day of Action

Realizing this commitment to advance the interests of the Filipino people, Iskolars ng Bayan united for a higher budget for social services in the past months, culminating in the State of the Youth protest last July 19 and September 23.

Joined by thousands of students, faculty, university administrators and other sectors, our unity and solidarity resulted in the realignment of P200 million for SUCs in the Senate version of the 2012 budget.

Starting December 6, thousands of youth and students will “Occupy Mendiola” to call attention to the worsening crisis of Philippine education and society. We Iskolars ng Bayan of Panay and Guimaras are called on to show our solidarity to these calls by joining a region-wide “Day of Action” on December 8.

Intensify the struggle against Aquino’s Anti-People Budget!

DEFEND THE RIGHT TO EDUCATION, HEALTH, AND SOCIAL SERVICES!

Kabataan Partylist | Anakbayan | League of Filipino Students | College Editors Guild of the Philippines | National Union of Students of the Philippines | Student Christian Movement of the Philippines

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