The rising cost of quality education

DIRECT FROM THE LABOR FRONT - Atty Josephus B Jimenez - The Freeman

It is crying time again, not just for young boys and girls entering kindergarten but for parents who can barely afford the rising cost of education. This is the start of the school year again, and the poor parents who can hardly make both ends meet will have to grapple with getting usurious loans to pay for enrollment and buy school supplies at very exorbitant prices. The profit-oriented schools will make millions again in a matter of weeks and the bookstores will have a heyday with brisk sales and uncontrolled profits in a nation that is choked by the unforgiving law of supply and demand. There will be a lot of tears and gnashing of teeth, a lot of sighs and anger. Life is unfair.

Education is the only honest and decent door towards social mobility, that opportunity for the poor to move up higher in the socio economic totem pole, especially so, in a society controlled by landed families, moneyed businessmen and industrialists and elitist families which monopolize and control the banks, the factories, the malls, the transport companies, the hospitals, the drug companies and the schools. If government abets the rising cost of education, by approving tuition fee hikes recklessly, to the extent of making it no longer affordable to the poor, then that government has betrayed its mandate to promote the well-being and interests of the people. The poor are always the most dispensable sacrificial lambs. Unfair.

The children of the farmers from the mountains are being excluded from quality education. The children of the fishermen, the laborers, the janitors, the street sweepers and the messengers will continue to inherit the poverty of their fathers. The sons and daughters of teachers, policemen, clerks and utility men, carpenters and construction workers, are excluded from the portals of elite universities and colleges. There will no equal opportunity for the brilliant but poor students in the barangays and in remote areas. And even the children of the poor, minimum wage earners in the cities and urban areas are shut off from the gates of elitist schools, many of which are run by religious congregations. Unfair.

Only the spoiled sons and daughters of the mall owners, of the bank executives, of the corporate bigwigs have opportunities to enter the hallowed halls of universities that cater to the children of the rich and the famous. Only the sons and grandsons of senators and congressmen, of politicians and contractors, of recruiters and gambling lords, and even drug lords can afford the high tuition fees and miscellaneous expenses in exclusive schools.

The children of the OFWs can perhaps afford the cost of education in elitist institutions, but they should always be mindful that the money they spend was earned through the sweats, the tears and even the blood of their migrant working parents.

The government is either unable to control this rising cost of education or is, by policy, really inclined, to allow school owners to squeeze the last pound of flesh from the working parents. Every time the schools petition for tuition fee hikes, the CHED approves them. Every time the workers petition for wage increases, the wage board either disapproves or reduces it to the barest minimum that is even lower than the poverty line and the threshold living wage. Both the CHED and the wage boards belong to the same government. And yet, there is neither rhyme nor reason of some synchronicity, much less alignment. Unfair.

Thus, the poor children of farmers, teachers and janitors have no opportunity to move up in the social totem pole.  Most of our schools are founded on the philosophy of profit. It is big business. Its ultimate test of success is money, not service. We should stop deluding ourselves with high-sounding slogans and mission statements.

It's still the same old story, the fight for gain and money. Business is still business. To claim being a missionary is big baloney. Schools exist for profit. The poor must fend for themselves to afford the rising cost of education. There is no such thing as free tuition. Even the working students and the scholars do pay, in some other ways. Life, indeed, is unfair.

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