Despite the total lockdown in Luzon imposed by the Duterte administration, progressive youth organization Kabataan Partylist Laguna (KPL Laguna) has received reports that there are schools pushing for its students to pay tuition and other school fees.
KPL Laguna has received reports from students enrolled in the University of Perpetual Help System’s Binan, Calamba, Molino, and GMA campuses; the San Pedro College of Business and Arts; Westbay College, and others. In all cases, students are being required to pay school fees, usually as a requirement for them to take online examinations.
Yesterday, March 17, KPL Laguna posted a statement denouncing UPHSL Binan’s practice, calling them out on “put[ting] [their] interest for maintaining a profit above the needs of students and their families”. The group asserted that the collection of school fees during a time of crisis is insensitive and unfair, and puts the workers, the students and their families at risk.
“We are in a time of crisis,” said Justin Umali, KPL Laguna chairperson, “and we are in a time of total lockdown under ‘enhanced community quarantine’. Insisting on collecting school fees puts additional strain on families who could use that money for food, water, and other supplies. It puts workers in danger by forcing them to go out despite the lack of public transportation. It forces students and families who could not avail an online payment option to make the trek to the campus, putting them at risk of contracting COVID-19.”
“There is no legitimate reason for any school to collect fees at this time,” he added.
The post regarding UPHSL Binan has received over 2,500 reactions, 1,000 comments, and 2,400 shares on Facebook. As of March 18, the UPHSL Binan has issued a statement through the student body publication Fiat that they are suspending school fee collections during the lockdown, calling it a “payment holiday”.
“This is what happens when students band together to assert their rights,” Umali said.
Students have come out to report more issues amid the COVID-19 crisis. In some cases, schools are forcing students to settle their accounts so they can be allowed to take online examinations. KPL Laguna notes that this is an “unfair denial of the right to education”, especially during the ongoing pandemic.
“’No permit, no exam’ policies are obtrusive and deny students the right to quality education,” Umali asserted. “They serve as hindrances to education, and in some cases – like Kristel Tejada – it can cost students much more than money. A school insisting on such a policy is a school that only cares about profit, and not its student body.”
KPL Laguna has also received multiple reports of online classes being forced to continue despite students’ lack of means to access stable internet connections. Particularly, students from the San Pedro College of Business and Arts have tried to reach out to the Commission on Higher Education but have yet to receive a response.
KPL Laguna asserts that these practices are insensitive to students’ plights. The group is calling for school administrations to stop these unfair practices, including the collection of all school fees during total lockdown, insistence on online classes even if students cannot access the internet, and ‘No permit, no exam’ policies.
Additionally, KPL Laguna is calling for schools to offer rebates on students’ tuition fees during the lockdown period, and insists that students have the democratic right to speak up on any policy that affects them.
KPL Laguna is currently continuing its collation of reports from students, teachers, parents, and other stakeholders. It is studying legislative steps that it could take at this time. ###