Education and inclusion
With classes in public and private schools opening next week, families once more face the specter of education-related expenses ranging from the rising prices of books and school materials, increased tuition charged by private institutions, and additional expenses like uniforms, transport and a shrinking daily allowance.
Amid this school-opening nightmare there is one bright spot: free college tuition in state-run colleges and universities which goes into effect this schoolyear 2018-2019. The program is the heart of Republic Act No. 10931, also known as the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act. As envisioned, the law gives “poor Filipinos the chance to [step into] college, giving them the tools to eventually change their lives and their loved ones’ lives for the better.”
While one would think that families with college-age children as well as all those demanding free college education for all would generally welcome the implementation of the law, some detractors have branded the law as another bit of “fake news.” Perhaps they can’t bring themselves to believe that a longstanding demand of activists and education reformers is finally being fulfilled.
This may be why House committee on appropriations chair Rep. Karlo Nograles is urging all institutions covered by the law to post within their campuses the guidelines and “how-tos” of the program. This would ensure that on school opening day and throughout the first year of the program, students, school administrations and parents are clear about the procedures involved in implementing this “universal access” law.
Nograles, who had sought ways to get around the reluctance of the Duterte administration’s finance team and fund the free college tuition law, urged that the guidelines to be posted in the various campuses be based on the implementing rules and regulations of the program which the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) launched last March.
Covered by the program are 112 state universities and colleges and 78 local universities and colleges accredited by the CHEd, as well as 122 technical-vocational institutions under the Tesda. Aside from tuition, the state will also shoulder miscellaneous and similar or related fees.
Magiting Gonzalez calls the National Children’s Hospital his “second home.” As Admin Aide 1, he handles clerical tasks for the hospital, sorting out and delivering paperwork mainly, but also carrying out other duties that may be assigned to him. “I have many tasks on my schedule,” he says, “and I do all of them well. I have to work hard.”
He is a person with autism, and while his official employment with the NCH began only last January, he has really worked there since 2016 as a contractual worker. His supervisor is all praise for his diligence and the alacrity with which he goes about his duties.
Magiting is only one of the many persons with disability working as administrative aides, deputy directors, teachers, and architects, in diverse workplace environments from SPED (special education) centers to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.
The Unilab Foundation through its program Project Inclusion, which enables access to work opportunities for PWDs, along with Fully Abled Nation, a multisectoral coalition working to improve the status of PWDs, are working with the Australian Embassy and The Asia Foundation Partnership in the Philippines on an ongoing campaign called “May 1% Ka Ba?”
The campaign is aimed at raising awareness among government agencies and private companies on RA 10524, or an Act Expanding the Positions Reserved for Persons with Disability.
Endorsed by different government agencies including the Department of Labor and Employment, “May 1% Ka Ba?” hopes to provide more employment opportunities for PWDs, matching their being “differently abled” with tasks and responsibilities suited to their ability, while opening the eyes (and hearts) of employers and colleagues to the full range of skills, knowledge and energy that they can deliver. It also urges bosses, coworkers and customers to “embrace workplace inclusion and go beyond compliance to the 1 percent mandated by law.”
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