Call for free education; Students, teachers groups to stage rally

May B. Miasco (The Freeman) - February 22, 2017 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines - Student, youth, and teacher organizations in Cebu are planning to hold a protest action to appeal to policymakers for the passage of House Bill 4800, which seeks to provide free college education.

Niño Olayvar, Anakbayan vice president for Visayas, said different stakeholders from the education sector, especially state universities and colleges (SUCs), will converge tomorrow at the Capitol grounds at 1 p.m. to vent out their concerns, which include, among others, the call for free education for tertiary level.

Student activists and militant groups dubbed February 23 as the National Youth Day of Action for Free Education.

Cebu’s mass action will be part of the simultaneous rallies nationwide.

Olayvar said that in Cebu, students and teachers will be walking out of their classes to demonstrate their appeal. They will march to the Capitol building for a brief program.

The rally, he said, is expected to gather around 300 students from different organizations, such as Nagkahiusang Kusog sa Estudyante, Artista para sa Nasyunalista Demokratiko at Rebolusyonaryong Sining, College Editors Guild of the Philippines, and Rise for Education Alliance-Cebu.

This early, he countered criticism for holding the rally and missing their classes, saying it will be for a greater purpose to make education “affordable and available to all.”

He said they have been open to consultations with other government agencies but claimed that their sentiments had fallen into deaf ears.

For Olayvar, holding protest rallies is more effective so the government can directly hear their plights.

He said they will not stop until their goal of acquiring free education will come true.

Olayvar said his group will also ask local officials like the Cebu provincial government to draft resolutions, supporting and endorsing the proposed measure.

“This is an effective power in shaking the walls of our policymakers… We will sacrifice and continue our efforts,” he told reporters.

Olayvar said the P8.3 billion appropriation for next school year's free tuition policy is not enough, stressing that a law should be passed to sustain this school policy for the succeeding years.

He said the government should not only limit to the tuition-free policy but in all facets of affording quality education.

House Bill 4800 or the Comprehensive Free Public Higher Education Act, filed by Kabataan Representative Sarah Elago, will cover all public tertiary education institutions such as state universities and colleges (SUCs) and local universities and colleges (LUCs).

Under the proposal, students enrolled in these schools "shall be free from payment of tuition and other school fees, except fees related to student activities" such as student organizations, student government, and campus publications.

The bill will impose a "no collection policy" on all public colleges and universities, to prohibit tuition collection and introduction of new fees.

Aside from free education, the bill also seeks to provide an opportunity for college dropouts to be readmitted to finish their studies without having to worry about their expenses. (FREEMAN)

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