Goodbye, Kristel Tejada! Education, condoms & moneymakers

clip_image002MANILA: With her death, it's clear to me that instead of University of the Philippines, UP means Unconcerned People. Hamlet knows Death, the unconcerned country, from whose bourn no traveler returns. I'm concerned, people, because UP is my alma mater. More than that, a life is a life.

At around 3 AM on Friday, 15 March 2013, college freshman and 16 years old, Kristel Tejada drank silver cleaner at their home in Tondo, Manila; finding out later, her parents rushed her to the Metropolitan Medical Center, but it was too late to save her (Edu Punay, 16 March 2013, philstar.com). On forced leave of absence from school, she took her life, despondent over the fact that her poor family could not pay the PhP 10,000 (about $250) tuition fee she owed the University of the Philippines Manila where she had been pursuing a course in behavioral science. Her adviser, UP Manila Professor Andrea Martinez said, "The girl had been depressed since going on forced leave."

Bad behavior for a girl?
Bad behavior for UP Manila! also
Bad behavior for the President of the Philippines, as I will show you in a little while.

There are 5 children in the Tejada family. Kristel's mother is a plain housewife; her father is a taxi driver. Curious long before this, I have gotten many taxi drivers to talk about their earnings, so I know they are lucky if they can net PhP 1,000 within 24 hours; given that they have to skip another 24 hours before they can drive a taxi again, that means they are earning PhP 500 a day or only PhP 15,000 a month, max. In the boondocks, earning 15K a month, the Tejadas are rich; in the city, they're poor. Taxi driving is not a moneymaker.

Before the suicide, the Tejada family asked UP Manila for a tuition loan and were denied; they asked to pay installment and were refused; they offered a promissory note and that was rejected. Then Kristel's mother "knelt before UP Manila Chancellor Manuel Agulto and begged that her daughter be allowed to continue attending her classes" and that fell on deaf ears. To be or not to be reasonable, that is the question. So, Kristel was forced to file a Leave of Absence (LoA) and, feeling hopeless, took an LoA on life.

Is Chancellor Agulto happy that he has been unflinching in strictly following rules and regulations at UP Manila? As Hamlet asks, "Does conscience make cowards of us all?"

In any case, Kristel Tejada's LoA is another story in the fight for poverty in the Philippines. There is another and deeper lesson to this, aside from the need for all the unconcerned people within the UP System to each take an LoA. The typical Filipino family thinks that education will lift them out of deprivation into a state of profusion. They think education is a good moneymaker. Now then, I offer 2 lessons out of that UP student's suicide over the family's failure to raise money to pay her tuition at UP Manila:

1, You can't eat a diploma.
2, Education can kill you.

UP is educating the people, starting with the high tuition fees, on true values: Education is expensive even when it's subsidized by government. That is because UP doesn't have a single moneymaker, so to raise funds, it raises tuition fees instead - if students can't raise the money, they can raise hell, but that's all. Kristel raised that silver cleaner and ... Don't they raise  good managers in UP?

I'm sorry about the suicide, but I like it that my alma mater is now educating parents that education is for the rich parents, so that the poor parents should now start thinking out education as the solution to a better life. Because it is not a moneymaker.

Mariz Zubiri, Chair of the UP Manila Student Council, said the Council was condemning "to the highest degree" the "anti-student policies" of UP Manila and the Aquino Government "for forcing students to stay out of school and take their own lives" (Punay as cited). She said, "Kristel is just one of the hundreds and thousands of UP and Filipino students who are pushed against the wall by the high cost of education and the Aquino administration's abandonment of Philippine education."

Funny that Mariz condemned Noynoy Aquino for abandoning Philippine education. She probably was thinking of more and higher government scholarships at public colleges and universities, which is within the presidential power of Aquino to declare.

Personally, I would encourage those who can afford, to go to expensive schools, so the graduates will then compete against each other looking for a limited number of jobs available in the country. Isn't competition great?! If you lose and your family is rich enough, you're entitled to your own excuses. Duh!

Now, let the Noynoy Government help those who cannot afford the expensive private schools, and UP, to become entrepreneurs instead. Moneymakers.

I'm a certified teacher, so I shouldn't be writing that? But I won't be a good teacher if I weren't writing this: Education is not the solution. If you go around the country, you will read painted on the walls of elementary schools this: "Education is the solution - Jesli Lapus." That was when he was Secretary of Education. I forgive him; he did not study to be a teacher. He was not thinking above the Filipino family's mediocre Diploma Attitude: "Kid, get yourself a diploma, and then you can help your siblings get their education too. And you will lead better lives, guaranteed."

Not only the old and new parents, the old and new Secretaries of Education need education; all the Chancellors and Presidents of Universities need it too, and so does the current President of the Philippines when it comes to solving The Problem of Poverty, and I repeat as a teacher: Education is not the solution. You can't eat a diploma! And education can kill you.

The RH Law is not the solution either.

UP student leader Mariz Zubiri was right about Ateneo-graduate-and-now-Philippine-President Noynoy Aquino: He would rather distribute free condoms and contraceptives than distribute scholarships to intelligent but poor students. His mathematics is good, his economics is bad. The expensive RH Law will not solve the problem of poverty, because "too many people living badly" is not the cause of poverty; it's "too few people thinking goodly."

Now, economics over mathematics. What's the budget for the new RH Law? An additional PhP 21 Billion! given to the Department of Health (DoH) (11 February 2013, ph.m.yahoo.com). Senator Tito Sotto protests; too much, he says; in the 2013 budget, already the DoH has PhP 9.1 B allotted for maternal and infant health care whatever.

I'm thinking: Do you realize what PhP 21,000,000,000 means? If you distribute as student loans to high school Juniors and Seniors an average amount of PhP 7,000 to set up their own little moneymakers, PhP 21 B means you will be creating at least 3 million (3,000,000) young entrepreneurs while they're still in school. At a success rate of only 50%, you will be producing 1.5 million moneymakers in a year, so many young ones with their paying jobs in their back pockets, instead of free condoms and contraceptives in their backpacks!

So, condoms or moneymakers? Condoms are free, moneymakers you have to conjure and help yourself. Still I'd like you to choose, to help yourself with this analogy I've just conjured from thin air:

The condom stops the moving finger.
The moneymaking finger writes and, having writ, moves on!

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