With rights campaign, Bacolod youth debunk ‘apathetic millennial’ image
BACOLOD, Philippines– Only a few may know about the Students’ Rights and Welfare (Straw) ordinance passed in Bacolod City, which awaits approval for implementation.
In 2016, Akbayan Youth led a caravan campaigning for the Straw Ordinance to be passed. The ordinance protects students by championing their rights in the absence of a magna carta. Unfortunately, it is still a few inches away from the grasp of students even until now.
All of these points prompted student leaders from the University of St La Salle (USLS) to take the initiative to organize themselves and conduct the first ever Straw forum in Bacolod City.
“If you don’t know your rights, you also wouldn’t know the injustice being done to you. So by helping the students realize our rights, it will help us also move freely and fight for what is ours,” said Moira Drew Severino, a Communication Society - USLS member.
The goal for campuses is to involve student councils in policy making “and build a constituency among the students wherein they themselves can understand what they should be receiving under a constitution in the absence of a Magna Carta for Students,” expounded Von Maungca, island vice chair for Akbayan Youth.
He added that student governments, councils, and publications, especially, should remain independent from the administration and uphold updated student constitutions that are in line with today’s generation.
Adryan Valiao, student government president of La Consolation College - Bacolod, underscored the important role student councils have in raising awareness and interest on Straw. “The role of student governments in Straw is to be the voice of the ordinary students; speak up [on] their [own] concerns and issues – especially to the administrators – in order for those concerns to be addressed appropriately and in time.”
The event, held at USLS on October 20, gathered student leaders from various schools, Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) officials, and members of the out-of-school youth (OSY) sector in Bacolod City.
Spearheaded by Youth for Sustainable Change in partnership with the College of Arts and Sciences of USLS and Akbayan Youth, the primary purpose of the forum was to raise awareness among the participants about Straw and to enjoin them in forming a coalition for students' rights and welfare.
“It started as an idea written on a piece of paper, now it was concretized into a project that will engage more minds to become aware of this advocacy and to produce more ideas that will emphasize our rights as students and young leaders in our society,” shared Charisse Erin Flores, Event Project Head of the forum.
Students' rights and welfare desks
The first task of the freshly established coalition was to come up with amendments for the Straw ordinance to fit the needs of the students in Bacolod City. Another goal was to include provisions on mental health and anti-discrimination components into these amendments, explained Flores.
Apart from being the generation that pioneered the controversial “selfie,” another aspect Generation Z is infamous for is their supposed apathy. Some say the technology their generation is blessed with is the same that is nibbling away on their compassion.
But the efforts of these student leaders should be testament enough to refute that accusation.
In USLS, the first Straw Desk in Bacolod City was established this academic year. It has entertained student issues and concerns, as well as suggestions reflecting what students want to see implemented in the campus, said Nicole Billanes, regional youth officer and USLS College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) Council member.
It was through the Straw Desk that an exhibit on Marcos’ martial law era would later on be organized in the campus, after students came forward with the idea.
“I think it’s very important [for students to know their rights] because it’s the only way they can make demands. And the idea of students being able to make demands is something we need to be better at practicing,” said Carie Morero of Denmark Social Democratic Youth League, who is visiting the country to share her experiences as a student leader.
Students, as this effort proves, can be socially aware and passionate about looking out for the welfare of their youth. They are far from being the indifferent, entitled millennials society paints them to be. – Rappler.com
Christiana Claudia Gancayco is a Rappler Mover in Bacolod.