Saturday, March 16, 2013

No Iskolar Left Behind?

I think my mother would feel really bad when she saw this news regarding yet another death in the UP system. She can relate really well to how difficult it is to generate funds for our education. I feel bad that she was just a freshman and she wasn't even able to make it to that Sablay moment and made her parents' effort worth it. My parents felt it thrice. The sad part of this is that "Anne's" parents would never feel this for her. And surely they were extremely proud of her when she got in. My parents were ecstatic, I went out of my house and raised both arms and screamed into the sky "Nakapasa ako sa UP!" and the neighbors who were also my relatives heard and were happy too.

My male bestie in UPLB is from Tondo, or at least he lived there most of his younger years until he got the chance to go to UPLB as a scholar. It changed his live and he was able to gain the confidence to get out of his old ways and life to become a student. He had a hard time since sometimes his stipend would not be enough or would be late. But he did his best to get every hurdle out of the way. At some point he was able to be an instructor in UPLB. I miss him and I am sure wherever he may be now, he feels for Anne and her family.

Is it unfair that now this is a reason for a student to end their life? Is frustrations and seemingly overwhelming burdens a valid reason not to go on living? Is it lack of concern on the part of the University that led to her demise?

There is always a casualty to the change that is introduced to the system. Because of the increase in tuition fee there are less and less scholarly students who can get their UP dream. I am afraid of the lack of Anne's and Kambal's (my bestie) in UP, diligent and smart students whose lives were forever changed because of the hope of a UP education. One chose to never leave as a graduate and the other made it come what may.

My stand on suicide still doesn't change. We need extreme courage and self-motivation to want to keep on living. For others who have it made, what she did is a little hard to imagine but horrible just the same. But to those who have been in Anne's situation before it brings to light an injustice that is ongoing.

Education is a right not a privilege! I used to hear this from my red friends when I was still in Elbi. But what if the right to an education is delayed because of the lack of financial capabilities? Should one just sleep an eternal sleep? I am sure Anne's friends and family as well as the people she interacted with in UPM would feel bad when people say that it is not a valid reason. Because an LOA is not the end of one's stay in college.

I just hope that if there is ever any other Freshman or Iskolar who feels this way, or is in the same situation.
PLEASE WAIT. An LOA, lack of funds and even having to leave the University to study somewhere else can still lead to better things later on. But the choice to leave LIFE because it's unfair and difficult as well as seemingly hopeless can never be turned around.

Let us all place the smiling pictures of our parents in our wallets and whenever we feel like loosing hope because we can't pass an exam or not graduating on time and what to just go into the deep end, just look at those smiles and imagine their tears if you ever go through with it.

Be grateful of the love and life you had. Until you are responsible for another life would you understand just how much you owe your parents for having raised you.

Please always choose to stay than go away.


My comment to a FB thread with PEBA peeps

I am a UPLB student. I am a peer counselor for Freshmen in UPLB when I was studying there. I still keep in touch with our Gabay volunteer group (peer counselors for freshmen) and I get inside scoop as to how things and students have changed over the years I was there to date.

The goverment cut the funding for UP and for education significantly. We are not subsidised by the government as the assumption is still the same case. The reason for the Tuition Free increase in UP is because the funding was lesser and lesser and ever corrupted in the end so the University had to act. In LB there was an appeal to let the projects we have be used to subsidise the scholarship or the funding generated be used for the University to keep costs down. I don't know what happened but ultimately the tuition fee increased so high that kids who got into UP ended up not going because they could not afford it. Most of the students who are in UP are either well-off, hoping to stick to a Scholarship or are those who were wait listed. This significantly changed the landscape of the situation.

Imagine being a girl from a family that had hoped that you could get into a state university so that it would be lesser fee-wise then you get there and you see classmates with laptops and can ease to school in cars and such. While you only have willpower, prayers and your parents unyielding effort to help you in the best of their abilities get to school. Would that not depress you?

But you push through. You still study hard. You still fight the pangs of depression and your own sense of self-entitlement. But effort can't always generate funds. Begging can't always bend the rules.

But for me the will to survive for your family, for yourself should have won.

There are other suicides in the history of UP. Students who got heartbroken, will broken by failing so many times when most of their lives they never failed on test or subjects. But this one really made me mad. Because of the ungrateful ones who did not pay for their loans someone like her suffered so much.

I am a UP graduate and I know it's advantages but I also know BRILLIANT people who finished university in other colleges and other universities. What you do with yourself after you finish your education matters most. Maybe for your initial job, for the first impression it matters. But your attitude and your work ethic would matter more in the end.

I know of so many UP graduates who float around after they leave the university waiting for that Dare to Be Great moment we were brainwashed we would have. Then I see those who actually make it happen. Not all bookishly smart kids make it in the real world. Sometimes we can't catch a break. But I believe that we should never give up on life.

We can survive an LOA or moving to a different school. But we can't go back from ending a life too soon.



My thoughts on the Suicide of UP Student Kristel Tejada

While some are beating their breasts or pointing fingers over Kristel's death, or talking of clearer and more pro-poor policies on UP enrollment, my concern is not for what is perceived to be the immediate cause of her suicide, but its roots.

Indeed, suicide is a complex issue, and only one thing appears to be clear. There is an increase of reported suicides among the young, due to reasons that would not normally drive them to kill themselves: lost love, poor grades, a bad interview, and in Kristel's case, an LOA that would have enabled her to re-enroll next semester.

It happens. UP students don't have money, they drop out, they come back. They fail, they get an LOA, they come back. Some get kicked out, get some really nice work experience in the field, and come back. Or not. But they don't kill themselves. They get another life, and often succeed with or without UP. At least that was how it was when life was harder, when we had to wait a long, long line to make a phone call, when we had to actually PHYSICALLY search for and read books and journals to write a term paper, when we had to wait for a week or two to get a (love) letter through the mail, now known as snail mail, from a loved one who had to travel home for 2 days by sea because he couldn't afford airfare.

Life was hard then. When people were poor, like I was made to believe I was, they had apples or cheese once a year if they could get any at all, and they got their allowances in coins, not bills. They had to survive on rice and sabaw, or rice and free sauce if they got lucky when the coins ran out. They walked, didn't ride -- sayang ang P0.25.

Back then, a wrong political move could send one missing, only to be found wounded, in jail, or worse, dead. No, we didn't commit suicide then. Life was hard but precious. We were harder. We would prevail.

Yet the experience may have driven many of us to do everything so things would be easy for our children. We love them dearly and don't want them to suffer the pains we had.

We have made material things, manipulatively put within our reach by quickly developing technology that obsolesces as fast, easily accessible to our children who might have little experience with postponing gratification. We have protected them heavily, because of our justified fear of their getting hurt by an increasingly cruel world, without a transition to independence that would have strengthened their will and capacity to survive the downs of life. We cave so fast even to trivial demands, so they wouldn't hold their breath while crying a ruckus and die (they can't do that). We have made things easy for our children. Probably too easy.

Quite possibly, there's the rub. Cesar Montano once remarked in a speech that he had such a difficult childhood yet believed that such difficulty made him successful later in life. Now that he was rich, he was worried for his children who had a comfortable life. He said "kung pwede ko lang bilhin ang kahirapan para magkaroon ng pagkakataon na tumibay ang mga anak ko". He didn't know then the speech would be prophetic of his son's suicide.

I read somewhere about someone who saw a butterfly struggling to emerge from a pupa. It was displaying much difficulty and valiant effort in the process of breaking the constrictive covering. That person was moved with pity and so "helped" the butterfly by taking off small pieces of the covering. The butterfly did emerge, but fell and died later. The vessels of its wings did not fill with enough blood to nourish the wings and make them strong. That, apparently, was the whole point of having to struggle to come out of the pupa.

Which brings me to my question: Are we helping our children too much that they are not developing the emotional strength needed to face life's challenges? Are we unwittingly putting some of them on the path that Kristel took? What do we do? What don't we?

Let UP restudy its admission and tuition fee policy. Let the faculty and students express their outrage. Let the politicians rant if they wish. But let us, parents, take a long look at how we are raising our children. How do we stand by and watch them struggle because like the butterfly, the struggle will make them stronger? How do we prevent another Kristel?

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