While in Koronadal City waiting for my bus to Gensan, there was a hullabaloo in the Yellow Bus Line station. I thought if it was news about some ambush or kidnapping, I had prepared myself for it but no, people were talking about Manila, Kristel, UP, tuition fee and suicide.
I found out later that the root of the thread of conversation was from the papers: Abante was talking about Tungga ng Kamatayan (Drink of Death by Juliet de Loza-Cudia, 03/16/2013) and Inquirer about UP President: Reforms under way after coed’s tragedy (Kristine Felisse Mangunay, 03/16/2013).
What was I doing the day before when the country lost a pretty innocent soul? I was preoccupied with my holiday at Lake Sebu. While I was overwhelmed with my solo trip to veer my mind away from the city’s stress, I mourn for Kristel and in principle tie black ribbons at the university gate while offering red roses, songs and poetry to her wake.
At 16 years of age, my schoolmate and eventually neighbor Kristel Pilar Mariz Tejada is a child by UN standard. It is then too easy to say that economic hardship that hinders attaining a college diploma was just too much for her to handle. I remember Marianet Amper, the girl from Davao who at 12 years of age also took her life in 2007 as his father was not able to provide money for her school project. There is no point though in blaming Kristel or Marianet for giving up as it is more important to look deeper to the circumstances that caused depression such as a school debt sentence. By third world standard, children become old by having to carry the burden of a world in disorder.
Why is death so close to home and comes knocking too early? Because poverty is everywhere and the present bureaucracy does not serve to define people’s scholar at the very essence of the phrase. Filipino families have a notion that their lives can be uplifted through education thereby not availing of education in the first place is already a failure. For uneducated parents and even those who gained higher education, their fervent wish is to send their children to school and always, parents struggle to pay the price. Since Spanish occupation, education remains a privilege, not a right. Since public education and state universities were established by the Republic of the Philippines as a US Commonwealth, education remains commercialized and colonial.
So what’s the best way to deal with this fight? The history of the youth movement teaches us that the key is to try to live stronger everyday to stand up in national democratic sisterhood and brotherhood against the anti-poor system. Kabataan Partylist has been pioneering causes that benefit the youth. ACT Teachers Partylist has been calling for policy and welfare reforms.
A country can actually achieve zero illiteracy through political will. I suggest Pres. Benigno Aquino III, DEPED Secretary Armin Luistro and CHED Chairperson Patricia Licuanan who is also UP Board of Regents Chair should look into the education program of Cuba’s Fidel Castro or of Venezuela’s late President Chavez Hugo.
How did Cuba attain a literacy rate of 99.8%? How did Venezuela taught thousand farmers and indigenous peoples how to read, write and count in just six months? A socialist implementation is not the same with socialized tuition.