July 28, 2023 (3:53 PM)

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Photo Credits to GMA News Online

Amidst the clamor for better student rights and just academic freedom by various youth sectors, President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. voiced a “renewed hope” for Filipino students in his second State of the Nation Address (SONA).

“We have renewed hope in giving the best to our next batches of students, especially the 28.4 million learners who returned to school this year. Learning recovery will be at the forefront of our education agenda,” Marcos Jr. said, reporting the MATATAG Agenda for basic education that aims to focus on delivering better quality education.

According to Marcos, the MATATAG Agenda focuses on enhancing the relevance of curriculum, rapid and responsive delivery, and looking out for the welfare of both learners and teachers.

“We have activated social safety nets, such as skills development training and youth employment programs. Tertiary education in state universities and colleges will remain free for our qualified students,” Marcos Jr. added.

However, during the People’s SONA 2023, various youth sectors (YS) gathered as they called for ease on the Tuition and Other School Fees Increase (TOSFI), Budget cuts, Mental Health Crisis, and opposed the revival of Mandatory Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (MROTC) that has risen during the past and current administration. 

“Ngayong umaga, kasama ng malawak na hanay ng mga kabataan, ay kinukundema [namin] ang isang makasalanang sitwasayon na nagtatanggal ng dignidad ng mga estudyante, at kabataan ng mga buong Pilipinas,” Student Christian Movement of the Philippines (SCMP) spokesperson Kej Andres stated during the mobilization hosted by Anakbayan (AB) and YS. 

“Sinisimbolo nito ang lato-lato, o ang paglalaro ni pangulong Bongbong Marcos sa hanay ng kabataan, partikular sa usapin ng edukasyon. Nilalagay sa mga….pabigat na bato ng MROTC at pagtaas ng matrikula na paniguradong kikitil sa buhay at kabuhay ng estudyanteng Pilipino,” Andres added.

Youth group Panday Sining vice chairperson Mariel Orpiada also said that they are calling for better education policies through their effigy, lato-lato – a representation of the youth who felt beaten up by mismatched policies on education.

Besides, youth groups in Southern Mindanao Region (SMR) also gathered in Freedom Park, Davao City, with the same calls, expressing dismay from the youth’s suffrage of inflation, and educational crisis due to the commercialization. 

“Walay nagbag-o sa kasamtangang sitwasayon sa nasud. Nagkataas gihapon ang inflation rate, ginatamas-tamasan ang atung kinaiyahan, walay taas na budget sa batakang serbisyo sama sa edukasyon ug panglawas na dapat ihatag sa gamahanan,” Anakbayan SMR spokesperson Beverly Gofredo stated. 

Redirecting dispositions, Marcos Jr. highlighted instead the total revival of face-to-face classes for all levels in the upcoming school year. 

“We will not let a student’s financial constraints be a hindrance to his or her education,” Marcos stated, despite news on impending tuition hikes. 

News on TOSFI emerged in private schools and universities following the repercussions of supposed budget cuts from state and public universities. 

“Sa nakalap nating report sa mga universities ay umiikot sa 4% to almost 10% ang mga TOFI (tuition and other fee increase) na gustong ipasa at iapply ng mga universities sa Commission on Higher Education (CHED),” National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) Joshua Aquiler stated.

Ateneo de Davao University has also announced a 7% increase in tuition and a 6% increase in miscellaneous fees that resulted in a case of dissatisfactory reactions from Ateneans. 

In light of the implementation of MROTC, it has been approximately nine months since youth leaders in SMR amplified their calls opposing this–opting for better educational reforms. 

“We are now in the third year of amplifying the calls of the education sector, mainly of the learners, who are tagged as the country’s hope,” UP Mindanao College of Humanities and Social Sciences chairperson Alec Gonzales mentioned during a press conference. 

There was no mention of the revival of the MROTC in Marcos’ latest SONA.



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