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Fight for the right to education

/ 02:30 AM October 04, 2011

This in response to the editorial titled “Squeeze.” (Inquirer, 9/29/11)

One can’t truly understand the protests against the cut on the education budget unless one recognizes that education is a right. Only thus will one also understand that the Sept. 23

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National Day of Action was more than for higher state subsidy for education, for our 111 state universities and colleges (SUCs); it was most of all a fight for the right to education. Thus, for government and private institutions to suggest that ours is an unworthy fight is to insult those who joined it—some 20,000 students, teachers, school officials and concerned individuals.

The SUC budget for this year is P21.8 billion. It is less than last year’s P22.03-million budget and less than the P45-billion budget requested by the Philippine Association of State Universities and Colleges (Pasuc). The top two SUCs with the highest budget cuts are in Region 1: The Mariano Marcos State University in Ilocos Norte (P44.5 million) and the Don Mariano Marcos State University in La Union (P44 million). Because of this, students in the Ilocos region also joined the nationwide protest.

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It is unbelievable that some government officials are denying the budget cuts when the website of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) clearly shows budget cuts for all social services.

Since President Aquino took over the reins of government in 2010, SUCs have gone through two consecutive rounds of budget cuts. Some senators and government officials accuse the students of “creating a ghost of budget cuts,” but the President himself admitted these cuts during the 2011 budget deliberations. After weeks of students’ strikes last year, it was announced that a total of P176 million would be restored to the SUCs’ budget.

Clearly, the massive budget cuts are the government’s way to systematically abandon its responsibility to uphold the right to education. The suggestion to limit support only to those SUCs considered as “centers of excellence” is unfair to the SUCs that do not qualify, especially those in the provinces like those in the Ilocos region.

At present, there are only six SUCs in the region to answer the needs of tens of thousands of college students. If the suggestion is pushed through, hundreds of thousands of students will not be able to finish college. Besides, how can the SUCs meet the requirements of a “center of excellence” if the government does not give them the necessary funds for their development?

Conrado de Quiros in his Sept. 27 column, “Education 101,” justified the massive walkout in defending the students’ rights and even challenged the students to do more. Two days later, the Inquirer editorial calls this fight unworthy.

As long as the government continues to deprive the youth and the students of their right to education, more strikes will be staged.

And we stand by the rightfulness and worthiness of their cause: our right to education.

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—FINELA MEJIA, Northern Luzon coordinator, National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) Northern Luzon, [email protected]

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TAGS: DBM, education, State Budget, SUCs
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