Cebu youth lead mass walkout against anti-student policies, repression

John Sitchon

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Cebu youth lead mass walkout against anti-student policies, repression

WALKOUT. Students from different schools and universities in Cebu participate in the Cebu-wide student walkout to protest against the commercialization of education in Cebu City on November 20, 2023.

Jacqueline Hernandez/Rappler

Hundreds of students from the different universities in Cebu City come together in front of the Fuente Osmeña Circle and chant, 'Education not for sale!'

CEBU, Philippines – More than 300 students in Cebu City walked out of their classrooms on Monday, November 20, to protest against the alleged repressive policies and the commercialization of education by various university administrations in the country.

Simultaneous rallies were held at the University of the Philippines in Cebu (UPC), along Gorordo Avenue, and the University of San Carlos (USC) Main Campus, along Sanciangko Street, before the groups converged in front of the Fuente Osmeña Circle for the main demonstration.

Students from other higher education institutions (HEIs) such as the University of Cebu (UC), Southwestern University (SWU), University of San Jose-Recoletos (USJ-R), Cebu Institute of Technology-University (CIT-U), and Cebu Normal University (CNU) joined the mass walkout.

“Students are facing a huge problem and it’s due to the Marcos Jr. administration not prioritizing the budget for education. Where is the budget actually going? To their confidential funds,” Ed Caitum, convener of the UPC Kilos Na said.

In August, student activists and teachers raised concerns about the government’s plan to cut almost P3 billion from the UP system’s budget allocation in 2024. 

Based on documents sent to Congress, the UP system’s budget allocation is expected to shrink from P24.263 billion in 2023 to only P21.291 billion in 2024. 

The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) explained in a statement that the cut was due to UP infrastructure projects nearing completion in 2023, which meant that they no longer needed funding by 2024.

According to Grover Perez, a representative of the College of Science in the UPC University Student Council, previous budget cuts have resulted in a lack of facilities, a shortage of research and athlete funding, and limited scholarship opportunities and subsidies.

Exclusivity and repression

During the protest, Grace Rosca, a member of the USC Supreme Student Council (SSC), called out the USC administration for its continuous attempts to increase tuition and refusal to acknowledge the student council.

Based on data gathered by the USC SSC, the average tuition at the private university is P40,000. Student leaders said that it may increase in the following years as USC has applied for a tuition increase with the Commission on Higher Education (CHED).

“Kung ang edukasyon kay among katungod, nganong kailangan pa magkamang para maabot?” Rosca said. 

(If education is our right, why do we still have to grovel to get it?)

The USC SSC said it was excluded from the University Academic Council (UAC), a student organization that governs and negotiates the implementation of university policies with the administration.

In a statement on October 4, the student council said this happened after it finalized a decision not to register under the Office of Student Formation and Activities (OSFA) due to various issues.

The issues include the administration’s disenfranchisement of unregistered student organizations, and the continued defunding of the university campus publication, Today’s Carolinian, among others.

They also complained about the delayed action on activity letters and budget request approvals. They said this sometimes results in students having to spend money from their pockets and being instructed to change parts of their constitution seen unfavorable to the university administration.

“In truth, the university continues to be an anti-democratic institution that contributes to the diminishing of democratic spaces for the students to enjoy the freedom of expression,” their statement read.

Spirit of youth

Angel Tirol, secretary-general of Kabataan Partylist CNU, stressed the need for students to unite, hold the government accountable, and advocate for doubling the funding for education.

She also pointed out the importance of demanding inclusive policies on gender expression, as members of the LGBTQ community continue to experience harassment and sexual violence in universities.

According to Kabataan Partylist-Cebu Chairperson Kyle Enero, demands for accountability and inclusivity would likely be amplified as students in Cebu find themselves more capable of speaking out and uniting for a common cause.

“This walkout is just the beginning of more walkouts to come, more mass actions of students and of the whole education sector, to forward our rights for a free, quality, and accessible education,” Enero said. –

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