By Francis Ryan Pabiania | February 8, 2021
Silliman University Student Government Students’ Rights and Welfare Committee (SUSG STRAW) Vice Chairperson Alisandra Abadia, said students should be educated and “fight for their rights” as pandemic “exposed flaws” in the current educational system.
“Symptoms of those problems were merely heightened but we’ve all seen it before,” according to Abadia who said that these were exposed because of the ‘broken system’.
She said many youth were not able to complete their studies due to lack of access to schools, resources, and financial challenges because of tuition fees increase. The lack of employment opportunities in the Philippines tends to encourage others to work abroad.
“As far as I know, there are more private schools than there are public schools in the Philippines, making education less accessible especially for people from lower socio-economic classes who bank on slots in State Universities and Colleges because tuition is supposedly free,” she added.
Abadia said that students should “Know Their Rights” first because most students are not aware of the national laws and policies that ensure the protection of students’ rights.
‘Education in Pandemic’
On Friday, February 5, more than 60 students joined the discussion on the current crisis in the Philippine education sector during the “Education Crisis in a Pandemic” webinar.
Abadia, who was also the speaker, said it is to raise awareness on the general context of the challenges, issues of the Philippine Education Sector.
“What is it that we want, what kind of education do we want if the current system that we have doesn’t respect our rights as students or as Filipinos.”
On the other hand, she suggested advocating “Ligtas na Balik Eskwela”, ensuring the planned opening of schools for face to face learning should be safe, providing proper medical solutions and prioritizing the calls of youth and students.
She reiterated the challenges and concerns of online distance and modular learning for students, teachers and parents, including mental health problems, tendencies of dropping out, lack of access to resources and internet connection, financial crisis and among others.
“Many families even lost their source of income and livelihood at this time. The most inclusive way forward is for the safe reopening of schools with proper medical protocols,” she said.
‘Call for Needs’
Abadia hoped that the webinar will encourage more students to advocate for a nationalistic, scientific and mass oriented education.
“Nationalist because we need an education that addresses the needs of the Filipinos, where we learn about our history, our country, our culture, our society from our perspective. An education that doesn’t serve the interests of foreign entities.
Scientific because we need an education that promotes scientific thinking, critical thinking, and one that allows the youth to expand their horizons and knowledge by acquiring this knowledge through the investigation and study of the concrete conditions of society.
Mass oriented so that it is accessible, inclusive sa masa, to the common Filipino. Na it allows the Filipino youth to have access to education, that education should be FREE because education is a right, and not a privilege that can only be available for those who can pay.” Abadia said.
Moreover, the STRAW Committee already had several surveys and consultations with the administration throughout the year. They emphasized the call for the administration to consult and listen to the concerns of students, and to adopt their recommendations.
When asked about the support for possible face to face classes, Abadia said there is a need for the national government to take decisive action on the pandemic.
“…and for the government to stop repressing the voice of the Filipino youth and other sectors calling for medical solutions. What we see now is increasing violence against the Filipino youth for pointing out the inutile policies and overall inaction of the government on social ills including this pandemic.”
Recently, the university continues to be among the top eight Philippine universities ranked in Asia by the Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) in its 2021 Asian University Rankings, 8th in UniRank’s 2020 Philippine University Ranking and was the only university outside Luzon in the top 10.
Abadia said that rankings reflected how the faculty and the students work hard given the resources that they have, however, these rankings mean nothing if the needs of the students and faculty were not prioritized.
“…and if their voices are stifled and even silenced. What good is a ranking if the stakeholders of the university- the faculty and students, who are the ones who work hard are not listened to or consulted? It merely becomes a marketing scheme by the school at the expense of the welfare and rights of the students and faculty.”