School Is A Big Business, Let Us Not Kid Ourselves!

kristelMs. Kristel Tejada, 16, would have been alive today had not the school officials of UP Manila acted more like they were bank officers motivated to chalk up more profit rather than act as “educators” charged with the lofty duty to train the minds and promote the well-being of their students.

This freshman from Tayuman taking up behavioral sciences from UP Manila was forced to take a leave of absence after her plea  to secure another loan of P10,000 from the same school to cover the cost of her tuition fee, fell on deaf ears. Embarrassed and depressed, she ended her life by imbibing a poison, her thirst for knowledge was more valuable than her life. If she could not be inside a classroom, she might as well be dead! She took her life on March 15, days after she was told she cannot go back to her classes and her library privileges withdrawn after her class ID was taken by the school.

Unlike Socrates whose intellect was ahead of his time, Kristel who thirsts for education chose to drink another kind of poison, because she could not brace  herself up looking at her classmates inside a classroom in joyous banter while she was outside peering in. It probably her sense of self-pity and helplessness that took the better part of her youthful innocence. It was her dream shred into tiny bits that that led her to desperate measures.

For a premier institution supported by tax money, to pursue the rigid commercial principle of our services for your money, speaks of how our educational system becomes rotten to the core. But if this is the condition of our school system today, one wonders why Kristel would trade it for her life, after all, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates were college drop-outs. But unlike Kristel, these two greats had been privileged to see enough of the inside of a classrom not hobbled so much with cash-flow, they simply saw school diplomas being irrelevant.

But let us not compare Kristel with the exceptional human beings. Let us look at her as normal young student whose dream is to cultivate her mind, secure a diploma, find a job and hope for a better life and help her four younger siblings. Nobody should begrudge her for that.

First off, she has applied for the Socialized Tuition And Financial Assistance Program (STFAP) from UP, meaning she came from the less privileged and would want to avail of the “benefits” for the poor. Unable to be approved for a full tuition fee discount, she moved that it be reconsidered, but meantime, she applied and was granted a student loan to pay for her tuition fee. Her father was a taxi driver and her mom, a housewife.up campus

As the second semester approaches, she had applied for another loan, while the school authorities were allowed to review for the whole full year her request for a reappraisal of her petition for a “full tuition fee discount.” The Loan Board denied her loan for reason that her first semester loan had been past due. Though not officially enrolled she continued to attend classes feeling empowered that she was inside a classroom though it came with a heavy price of not being called for to participate in class discussions.

Let me rephrase it:

The board wanted to give her money for tuition provided her loan incurred in the preceeding semester be paid first. I am lost here. If she has money to pay for her first loan, why would she apply for another loan? Is not life simplier if she would just use the money to pay her tuition fee instead of paying off her old loan only to apply for the second loan? Was not her request for loan proof enough that she has no money to pay the old loan and therefore the school must not used prepayment of the first loan as a condition for the second loan? And please remember that she has a pending request for a “full tuition fee discount” which if approved, would only require a pencil exercise to extinguish whatever loans she had if only the school authorities acted on her request more expeditously instead of sitting their butt on it. But if it proves that she was not qualified because her parents had money to send her to school, would that ‘misrepresentation’ enough motivation to end her life? Is not life simplier if she would have just asked her parents to foot the bill instead of engaging in a charade?

Or her family was really that destitue with house coffer entirely empty and barren? After all how much a taxi driver earns in a day to be able to support 5 children and a stay-home mom? Not much really.

Anyway, her predicament was lost on the school authorities — their wisdom at odds with realities, saw more Kristel or a couple of students like her without money sitting in a class can spike operational cost, – more electricity consumed, more pay for their instructors and more books out the library shelves. But these concerns were cost inlaid already. It does not matter if a class is composed of 30 or 32 students, operational outlay would remain fairly constant.

The school authorities must have seen Kristel as someone that can be squeezed to put up money for tuition — she instead coughed-up blood!

A recurring paradox must not be lost over this tragic incident. UP Manila is in the heart of Ermita, the world’s cheapest fuck according to author F. Sionil Jose. Young coeds without money escorting foreigners and businessmen in brothels were as ubiqituous as the swallows scavenging for food in breakwater of the Manila Bay at dusk, so at dawn they have tuition money the equivalent of what most beer house patrons in the same area spend in an hour or two over bottles of beer and “pulutan.”

But for all her prudent innocence, Kristel did not see this route as an acceptable option, despite’s life being horrendously unfair to her.

Many in Kristel’s circumstance can succumb to this kind of temptation brought about by uncaring and insensitive school board. Come to think of it, these swivel-chaired officials gave their young coeds reasons to trade flesh for tuition. They are actually the modern-day pimps enjoying the immoral money earned by their students so they can sit the whole day in their air-conditioned rooms to add more cellulites in their stinking behind. They are also paid by tax money collected from the people, poor and rich alike to become public servants but totally clueless of the meaning of what public service is all about.

Making money instead of educating their students seems to be the engine that drives most schools today including UP. No wonder, Senatoriable Cynthia Villar, despite her UP education was opposed to closing down 23 nursing schools that produced students that cannot pass their board exams because the school must be allowed to earn money from their investment.

And speaking of “diploma mills” John T. Sidel, (Philippine Politics and Society In The 20th Century) noted:

“Perhaps the very conditions associated with these ‘diploma mills’, where children of the labouring classes saw their aspirations to social respectability exploited in the factory-like, profit-driven mass production of college graduates, served to undermine such attempts to single out individual students for disciplinary measures and to invoke absolute administrative discretion over academic issues and campus life alike. In any event, rather than submitting to the terms outlined by college administrations with regard to proper conduct and, ultimately, private property, students challenged them, collectively and publicly, by picketing campuses, marching in the streets of Manila, and demonstrating outside Congress in the late 1960s. Whilst this wave of student activism focused but brief attention on ‘dialogue’ and ‘reform’ at the top of college administrations as well as national government, it also left behind a battle-scarred downtown area where buildings with broken and boarded-up windows remained in powerful testimony to the moment of struggle, thus recalling fragments of collective memory from the amnesia of history through lived experience itself.” (p. 126).

It is about time that we remove schools from the hands of businessmen and put real educators at their helms.

12 thoughts on “School Is A Big Business, Let Us Not Kid Ourselves!

  1. Very worthwhile discussion points. I fear I run contrarian on this matter. For sure, the young woman’s suicide is tragic. Absolutely tragic.

    However, I fear that to lay the blame on the university is rather like blaming the vendor who sells bullets to a murderer’s gun for the murder. To reach the point of suicide, the girl had a bigger life that did not give her the support she needed. The wisdom, the counseling, the strength. The money. The university is in fact “in business” to provide an education, not loan money nor know the psychological fitness of every student. We ought not do an ideologically pure “commie rant” on the University, I think. They crank thorugh thousands of nameless, personalityless people on their rolls. How, really, could they expect this? And how, really, is the discipline of demanding that people pay for services rendered a bad discipline?

    Schools that don’t run as businesses are unlikely to provide as good an education as those that do, for the business enterprise demands organization and order and prioprity and efficiency. It seems to me that, as capitalism is better at producing wealth than socialism, it is also better at crafting educational models that generate “learning” for large numbers of people.

    Don’t just single out the university on this. Look at the girl’s whole life’s platform, from infancy.

  2. I agree. I have gotten out from school because I have no money only to return after I have the money. Temporary setbacks should not be considered permanent derailment of your ambition to uplift yourself from the doldrums of ignorance. But that is me not Kristel. However, UP should provide you with a totally different kind of experience. It is supported by tax money but only the rich monopolized the student quota of the school. The concept of socialized tuition and financial assistance program, (STFAP) was conceived to address that disparity and level the playing field. It is similar to “affirmative action” in the U.S. where minorities were given extra points in matters of university admission, so they can avail of college education. In the case of this local program, (STFAP),it was designed to help the poor get college education and drive the rich to other pricey universities. If UP veers away from this noble ideals, it deserves censure from the public for the death of Ms. Tejada.

    • ahh, that makes sense then. I withdraw any implication I may have made between the lines or on them that you are a commie pinko. Indeed, it sounds like a valuable program. Thanks for the further explanation.

  3. Pingback: Kristel Tejada, isa kang “Bayani”. | Unwritten Thoughts

  4. You hit the nail on its head! Twas a very simple mathematics for those idiots n the Board how much a taxi driver’s earnings against cost of feeding 5 children & his & wife’s mouths!

    • I rather think it is not the Board that is idiots. It is a society that shuns psychological counseling because to go to a therapist subjects one to ridicule by one’s peers. The girl was clearly troubled emotionally, and that is not the Board’s fault. The straw that broke the camel’s back is simply the last straw among many burdens. When Fiipinos discover that emotions are for discovery, not hiding, then people who are hurting will get needed counseling. I object to the finding of any culprits in this tragedy.

  5. nice article sir jcc… this is reality being slapped in anyone’s face especially to those who continue to act blind or those who refuse to see the dismal state of philippine education.. i actually admire the way you frame your arguments and rebuttals fending off those hounds in getreal website…

    STFAP bracketing or classification is flawed to say the least. I know where i speak from since I applied for STFAP before.For 1st semester AY 2005-2006, i was classified under Bracket 9 which practically is nothing at all. Meaning, STFAP is saying that I am well capable of paying all matriculation fees even though my father has just passed away a few months ago, and our only source of income would be from my sister who’s earning only 84000php per year. Appeals for rebracketing took 5 months only to be denied.

    Socialized Tuition and Financial Assistance Program or STFAP has been a failure in its purpose to serve the needs of students who are in need of financial assistance ever since its inception back in 1989 rather it paved the way for unprecedented tuition fee increases from 40php before its implementation to 300php in 1997 and now 1000-1500 php in 2007. #scrapSTFAP..

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