Philippines: Student unrest over education budget cuts

UP on Strike against Budget Cut! Photo Credits by Mon Ramirez.

In the past week, thousands of Filipino students held massive protest actions, walkouts, class stoppages, and campus strikes against reduced government subsidy for State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) and the consequent tuition and other fee increases and commercialization of education.

Along with the more decisive offline organizing, blogs and social networking sites have also become sites for raising awareness on the budget cut issue and enjoining students to join the massive protests.
The blog education4all is a repository of reference and publicity materials related to this campaign. Related posts can also be followed in several social networking sites using the hashtags #PHstudentstrike and #education4all.

Students, faculty, and staff barricades the main road leading to the University of the Philippines Diliman in protest of government cuts on the education budget. Photo Credits by Dean Lozarie.

In a “Call to Strike” reposted in blogs and social networking sites, the holding of big militant collective actions is explained as the answer to the Aquino administration and its allies’ refusal to heed the students’ call to reduce the budget for education.

One creative means of popularizing the issue is the coming up of an anti-budget cuts campaign jingle to the tune of Lady Gaga’s “Telephone.” The lyrics are posted here.

Jingle mixdown by jhann8

Just a second noynoy/ Kala mo payag kami?/ Bawasan ng todo ang budget ng SUC?/ Mahal na nga ang tuition at walang facilities/ Education is a right, lalaban kami

CHORUS: STOP SUC BUDGET CUT, ating panawagan Education is a right, ipaglaban. STOP SUC BUDGET CUT, ating panawagan. Kabataan, kilos na at lumaban!

Just a second noynoy/ You think we agree?/ Greatly decrease the budget for SUCs?/ Tuition is expensive and yet there are no facilities/ Education is a right, we will fight

CHORUS: STOP SUC BUDGET CUT is our call Education is a right, defend. STOP SUC BUDGET CUT is our call. Youth, take action and fight!

Live reports, photos, and videos from blogs and social networking sites are also augmenting the gaps of coverage in the mainstream media. November 25 saw the simultaneous launching of big protests in the country’s chief higher educational institutions, including the premier national state university, the University of the Philippines (UP). A weeklong campus lockdown has been in the works in the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) since November 19.

The League of Filipino Students, a national militant student organization, rounds up the strike activities for the first day.

PUP symbolic barricade during the November 19 press conference launching the strike. Photo credits by League of Filipino Students.

On November 26, 5,000 student protesters marched in the streets of Manila. They stormed the Department of Budget and Management and proceeded to Mendiola, near the gates of the Presidential Palace. On the same day, 400 students of the UP Cebu City campus and a similar number in Davao City, among other provinces, walked out of their classes in protest.

Part of the 5,000 students who took part in the Nov. 26 protest in Manila. Photo Credits by #education4all.

In response to the massive student unrest, the Aquino administration and its allies either (1) dodge the issue by denying there are budget cuts, (2) insist that the budget for basic education should be given more priority than that of the SUCs, or (3) assert that public schools should simply increase tuition and other fees and engage in commercialization schemes to augment the dwindling state subsidy.

In the meantime, student activists are calling on everyone who participated in last week’s student protests to “Blog the strike!” and share their strike experience.

Yellie Jellie blogs about how the education budget cuts affect her and her family.

Bilang estudyante ng isang state university, syempre apektado ako ng budget cut. Ngayon pa lang nga, may mga panahon ng nahihirapan kaming magbayad ng tuition, pano pa kaya sa susunod? Naalala ko, sabi ng nanay ko, “tama, buti sa UP ka, mababa lang tuition dun, di tayo mahihirapan”. Pero anong bumungad sakin? Isang libo per unit na tuition. Bente mil para sa 18 unit na semestre. Ako na lang ang nag-aaral sa aming magkakapatid, graduate na lahat ng mga kapatid ko. Ate ko ang nagpapa-aral sakin, at siya rin ang breadwinner ng pamilya namin. Sa totoo lang, nahihiya na ko sa ate ko, kasi hindi rin siya ganun nakakaipon dahil ng sa pangmatrikula ko. Pano na lang pag natuloy na naman ang budget cut?

As a student of a state university, I am obviously affected by the budget cut. If we are already having difficulties paying tuition even now, how much more next time? I remember what my mother said before, “correct, its good you're in UP, tuition there is low, we will not have a hard time.” But what did I face? One thousand per unit tuition. Twenty thousand for 18 units in a semester. I am the only one studying among us siblings. All my brothers and sisters have graduated. My older sister is paying for my studies, she is also our family's breadwinner. In truth, I am ashamed to face my sister, because she can't save that much because of my tuition payment. How much more if the budget cut is approved?

Lexiphilia explains why she joined the strike.

I may not personally be in danger of losing my education because of my tuition fee, but I have amazing friends and colleagues who work their asses off to get the best grades ever, just to sustain their scholarships and stay in their colleges. I have had the privilege to work with the most hardworking and passionate students who get up at the crack of dawn, commute from outside Metro Manila, attend their classes, and go home just because they are determined to make something out of themselves and help their country despite their currently financial problems. I have listened to my favorite, most beloved UP friends pour their hearts out and talk about how they and so many other people they know, depend on their scholarships and grants.

Kapirasong Kritika asserts that the student actions are not cases of “mindless protest.”

Hindi ito walang-utak na protesta, o “mindless protest” gaya ng tiyak na ibabansag ng mga komentarista ng midyang mainstream kapag hindi na nila magawang hindi ito pansinin. Punung-puno ang welgang ito ng pag-aaral, nakasalalay ito sa pag-aaral, sa tunay na sanhi ng mga suliranin ng edukasyon sa kasalukuyan. Dapat tayong makinig.

This is not a mindless protest like how some commentators from the mainstream media would surely label the protests if they can no longer ignore it. This strike is full of lessons. It also relies on lessons of the real causes of the education crisis in the present.

Le Bourgeois on what could have happened if there are no education budget cuts.

Kung walang budget cut noon, edi sana mababa lang ang matrikula, hindi na kailangang magtrabaho sa ibang bansa ng tatay at di na niya kailangan pang mag-alala sa amin. Edi sana hindi naging sakitin ang nanay dahil kailangan niya pang sumubsob sa pagtatrabaho. Edi sana naandito lang ang tatay sa bansa at magkasama sila ng nanay sa pag-intindi sa ginagawa ko…

Kung walang budget cut noon, edi sana lahat ng batang matatalino ngunit walang pera ay makakapasok sa UP ng hindi mag-aaalala sa babayaran nilang matrikula. Wala sanang titigil sa pag-aaral dahil lang wala silang pera.

If there was no budget cut before, then tuition would have been lesser, and father wouldn't anymore need to go to other countries and he wouldn't need to worry about us. Mother wouldn't have become sickly because she have fallen to working very hard. Father would have been here with us in the country and he would have been with mother in understanding what I've been doing…

If there was no budget cut before, then all the penniless intelligent youth would have entered UP without worrying about their tuition payments. No one would have dropped-out from schooling just because they had no money.

The Pixillated puts the Aquino administration to task for increasing the military budget while cutting down on education spending.

I know our military equipment is far from updated and I know soldiers don’t receive much in terms of allowances and salaries, but all are other industries are just as outdated and a lot of our countrymen don’t even have stable jobs…

Now here’s the thing, the military is not revenue generating. So in my opinion, by choosing to invest money into the military, the government is sort of throwing money away. Unless of course, the government has this secret plan to train all the soldiers to work in the rice fields and garment factories in a synchronized manner they resemble machines. But I doubt that.

Here are some video footages of the protest actions. Nov. 25, State scholars march in the Diliman campus of the University of the Philippines:

Nov. 25, The strikers sing the university hymn as they barricade the University Avenue:

Nov. 26, Students storm the Department of Budget and Management:


  • Jeraldyn

    Just a reaction to those passive masses and some elite students saying that the student are wasting their time rallying the streets to fight and stand for the right to education. I maybe not one of them but I wish I have the time to join, for I am a working 4th yr college student. 7 years na ako sa college dahil hindi kayang pagaralin ng magulang ko. Hindi nman pede mag resign dahil sa taas ng bayarin sa school at kung ano anong fees na dapat bayaran, mas kinakailangan kong magtrabaho ng extra hour sa call center. malaking sweldo kung tutuusin ngunit ramdam mo ang exploitation bilang skilled worker dahil puyat ka sa skwela, may matututunan pa ba kung tulog na lang ang pahinga? You see how unfair? kasi kayo isinilang na kayang magbayad gaano man kamahal ang bayarin..paano naman ang karamihan na katulad kong working student?

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