Monday, March 18, 2013

UP student suicide--a tragedy that reflects true state of Filipinos

Unknown to many, I was not financially capable when I entered the University of the Philippines in Diliman in 1998. I decided not to get all of my tuition and daily expenses from my parents. It was my conscious decision to finance my study. It took great sacrifices but thinking about it now, it shaped my character.

I entered the University with a scholarship. Part of this scholarship is spending a few hours working as a student employee of the University. The money I get, I spend buying books, and food. It was enough to tide me over, since dorm fees were still in the 147 pesos per month range and transpo was just below 1 peso per ikot.

I supplement my monthly income by working, first as a Wendy's guy tending the salad bar, and writing articles, since every submitted article to Sinag (college publication) and in some instances, the Philippine Collegian gave you some few pesos. I got another scholarship, this time, from Japan. This scholarship really upped my monthly income, so much so, that I was able to buy many books and had some money to go to the German Goethe Institut and photocopy several Marxist literature.

What am I saying?

If you have the guts and the strong will to finish the course you want, you have to do every single thing to get it. The University teaches you something not all universities in the Philippines do---the UP teaches you to survive.

Of course, Of course, that was twenty years ago. I admit there were several occasions when I literally survive without any cent in my pocket, but I survived because I used my skills to tide me over.

This is me, and I am not saying that every single one do the same thing I did twenty years ago. All I'm saying is that, hey, tuition fees at the University was not 1,000 pesos per unit, and I was just paying 47 pesos per semester back then due to STPAP.

That's why I am so saddened by this alleged suicide committed by a UP student studying in Manila. I believe that the circumstances which allowed me to survive college were probably absent when this student had hers.  She was still a freshman, and still trying to make ends meet.

I just thought that when I was still a Freshman, unknown to many, I survived by applying for work and working the night shift at Wendy's. When I was third or fourth year, and I needed extra money for my thesis, I worked for the Jose W. Diokno Foundation as a researcher. It gave me income which I used to survive. Even before graduating from the University, I even went so far as applying for a reportorial job at the defunct Diaryo Filipino. Those were my jobs before I finally entered the work place.

What am I saying? Those opportunities existed before. Now, I don't know if these things are still available for all poor students of the University. There was a time when I actually loaned some money from one of my professors, just to pay for my masteral course.

What am I truly saying? For me, back then, death or taking my life was not an option. Yes, sometimes, or probably some time, you think about it. Yet, you don't do it because life after tragedies is more pleasant than anything. Tragedies strengthen you. Financial difficulties really suck but again, these things past. When you overcome these difficulties, you emerge a better person.

Some suggestions:

1. First, the University must ask private companies to help students get jobs to finance their studies.
2. Second, the government must increase the number of scholarships in the University
3. Third, the number of counselors should be increased.
4. The University must be very flexible when it comes to allowing students to tuition fee payments. In this case, the University should have made this student sign something, a bond maybe, that will allow her to continue her studies worry-free. She can pay her tuition naman if she had the means. She will work eventually after graduation, right?