Thousands walkout nationwide in Nat’l Day of Action for Education
Led by several progressive national youth organizations, students from all across the Philippines walked out of their classes yesterday and were joined by hundreds of out-of-school youth. They held the walkout as part of a ‘National Day of Action for Education’, a protest against what they termed an ‘education crisis’ in the country, and its apparent continuation under a new administration which came to power using promises to reverse the policies and practices of the previous regime.
Among the NDAE’s organizers are: Anakbayan, a comprehensive nationalist & democratic youth group; League of Filipino Students (LFS), an anti-imperialist student organization; the Student Christian Movement’s Philippine chapter; young artists’ group Karatula; National Union of Students in the Philippines, the nationwide alliance of student councils; College Editors’ Guild of the Philippines, the nationwide alliance of campus publications; and Kabataan Partylist, the parliamentary youth party. The organizations are advocating a common 5-point agenda, which they have challenged the new government to adopt:
- Strict regulation of Tuition and Other Fee increases. This includes an emergency call for the State to adopt an immediate ‘Tuition Freeze’ in all colleges and universities nationwide.
- Increase state funding of the education sector to the UNESCO-recommended equivalent of 6% of the country’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product).
- Ensuring the welfare of other sectors in campuses, such as teachers, government employees, health workers (in the case of UP Manila, which operates the Phil. General Hospital), and illegal settlers in idle lands owned by state colleges and universities.
- Ensuring the autonomy and independence of student institutions such as student councils and school papers. Included in the proposal are other measures to give students representation in the decision-making bodies of their campuses.
- Junking and repealing of certain anti-student policies, such as the Education Act of 1982 and the Campus Journalism Act of 1991.
In the National Capital Region, many of the participants came from state universities such as the University of the Philippines-Manila, University of the Philippines-Diliman, Polytechnic University of the Philippines, Eulogio Amang Rodriguez Institute for Science and Technology, and the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila. They were also joined by students from private schools such as the Far Eastern University, University of the East, Adamson University, Lyceum, Philippine School for the Business Arts, Jose Rizal University, and the Technological Institute of the Philippines. They were also joined by public high school students, mostly from Culiat High School in Quezon City.
Students from the UP-Los Banos and youths from the same region (Laguna) also joined the protest in the NCR.
Youths and students from the Central Luzon region also participated in the NDAE by holding a picket in front of the Commission on Higher Education’s regional office in the province of Pampanga. This happens to be the first youth-led protest in the region since the military implemented a program of assassinating and abducting anti-government activists in the said region.
A similar trooping was also done by youths and students in the province of Cebu.
A month after they stormed the CHED Regional Office-7, students led by the League of Filipino Students (LFS), Anakbayan, Kabataan Partylist, Student Christian Movement of the Philippines (SCMP) and Kabataang Artista para sa Tunay na Kalayaan (KARATULA) returned today to demand the promised action by CHED against the skyrocketing increases in tuition and other fees by 339 Higher Education Institutions in the Philippines as part of the National Youth Day of Action for Education.
“CHED 7 Assistant Regional Director Candelario Aytona’s statement last June 15 was not strong enough to convince us that they will forcefully act on our demands,” Kyle Tumbiga, spokesperson of LFS-Cebu, “So we return today as we promised to repeat our demands for immediate action to stop the tuition hikes this year.”
The students marched to the CHED office in Sudlon, Lahug, Cebu City where they held a picket rally. “CHED should be the one upholding the interests of the students but it has become a mere mouthpiece for the capitalist educators as it rationalizes the increase in school fees instead of ensuring the accessibility of quality education to the Filipino people,” Tumbiga lamented.
The unabated tuition fee increases has been the cause of the ballooning number of out-of-school-youth as students are forced to drop out because they are unable to afford the rising cost of education. In 2009, 5.6 million young people were classified as out-of-school youth. The state of Philippine education visibly worsened under the Arroyo administration during which the average increase in tuition fees rose to 94.72% in the 9 years that it was in power.
Therefore, the biggest challenge for the new administration of President Noynoy Aquino, who was swept to power by the promise of undoing the injustices of his predecessor, is to arrest the decay of the quality of education in the country and to ensure the availability of education even to the financially incapable.
The protests were held simultaneously with other actions all over the country as thousands of students walked out of class to condemn the worsening crisis of Philippine education. “If the commercialization of education continues, we will become nothing but a nation of ignorant citizens for we are depriving our youth of a better future,” Tumbiga warned.
Meanwhile, students from the University of the Philippines-Iloilo, held a different kind of protest: a silent march across their entire campus.
Students from the University of the Philippines-Tacloban, in Samar province, also held a rally in their campus.
U.S-based youth activists from Anakbayan, ALAY, and POWER also joined the protest in the National Capital Region.
Filipino youth organizations in the U.S, including the U.S-based chapters of Anakbayan and the LFS, issued the following statement:
Solidarity Statement from the Filipino Youth and Student Movement in the U.S. for the July 16 National Day of Action for Education
We, the Filipino youth, extend our most militant solidarity to our brothers and sisters in the Philippines. We express our admiration and total support to those who are boldly breaking out of the confines of their universities to intensify the struggle for our basic right to education.
The struggle against the continued commercialization and privatization of our education is also our fight. We also experience continuous, systematic attacks on our inalienable right to education.
In the belly of the beast, public education remains under constant attack from neo-liberal policies upheld by the current Obama administration. As American Imperialism escalates its assault on its semi-colonies through war of aggression and economic plunder, it continues to exploit and deprive its own citizens of their basic democratic rights. Budget cuts degrade the quality of public education by decreasing student services yet increase class sizes. Increased tuition hikes and layoffs force working-class students, faculty and workers to bear the brunt of the economic crisis caused primarily by the financial institutions of monopoly capitalism.
On March 4th tens of thousands of students, teachers, faculty, staff and workers participated in hundreds of actions in 32 different states. The actions in March were a huge success, but the struggle continues to intensify as the budget cuts worsen. In New Jersey, 19,000 students walked out of schools to protest the cuts. In Puerto Rico, University of Puerto Rico students went on strike for over a month in response to cuts there. Another national day of action is being organized for October 17, 2010 to continue the struggle against the continued commodification of our right to education.
In the home front, we echo our youth and students’ demand to the newly seated President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III to (1) immediately allocate an emergency fund for education; (2) to freeze and roll back tuition and other fees; and (3) to ensure the allocation of at least 6% of the Philippines’ gross domestic product (GDP) to education. Let us settle for nothing less than a nationalist, scientific, mass-oriented education for all.
Lastly, we encourage the Filipino youth to continue and intensify our struggle against the three evils that burden our people, namely: Imperialism, Feudalism and Bureaucrat-Capitalism. Let us be bolder in arousing, organizing and mobilizing an ever-increasing number of youth and students to join the ranks of the basic masses in our fight to advance genuine independence and democracy towards a society that prioritizes peoples’ needs above all!