Officials of a state university in Manila have been urged to scrap restrictive policies on tuition payments, following reports that the these may have triggered a student's death.
A petition posted via the online portal Change.org (http://www.change.org/petitions/administrators-of-up-manila-revoke-the-no-late-payment-and-forced-leave-of-absence-policies#share) asked administrators of the University of the Philippines Manila to revoke its "no late payment" and "forced leave of absence" schemes.
This, after media reported Friday that a freshman behavioral science student in UP Manila took her own life days after filing for leave of absence (LOA).
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UP Manila has a policy of advising students to file for LOA if they fail to meet the deadline of tuition payment, professors earlier said.
Such rules may have contributed to the financial woes of the 16-year-old student, who is the eldest of five children of a taxi driver and a housewife, they added.
The online petition, however, acknowledged that some other unreported circumstances may have led to the student's death by suicide.
Still, it urged that the two policies be scrapped as they are "anathema to the UP system's nature as a 'university of the people.'"
A total of 875 users have signed the petition Saturday afternoon since it was posted online late Friday.
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"Education is a right not a privilege," many of those who signed the online petition wrote.
Petitioner Kat Madrid meanwhile said: "Ang dapat na prayoridad ng UP ay ang mga estudyanteng matatalino na gustong makapag-aral pero salat sa buhay (UP should prioritize well-performing students who are not well-off)."
"This policy is anti-poor for an institution which should be inclusive of bright filipinos regardless of social class," Aileen Hernandez added.
The "no late payment" and "forced LOA" rules, implemented through a memorandum last year, have previously been slammed as "anti-student."
Critics have also said the policies only add to students' financial burden especially amid recent tuition hikes.
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The student who took her own life paid around P7,500 per semester, as she fell under Bracket D of UP's Socialized Tuition and Financial Assistance Program.
Her father had reportedly filed a request late January for her daughter to be enrolled and allowed to apply for another loan, UP Manila officials said.
The plea was denied, however, pending the family's payments to a loan obtained in the past semester and "since it was already mid-semester," they added.
UP Manila has also issued a statement sympathizing with the student's parents, adding that they will extend financial assistance.
UP Student Regent Cleve Arguelles meanwhile said the incident was not a case of suicide.
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"[The student was] killed by the system--a system that refuses to recognize that education is a right, that life is measured in your capacity to pay," Arguelles said via Facebook Friday.
In a separate post, he said: "Isn't it ironic that the UPM admin is now extending financial help to [the student's family]?
This, as he noted that financial aid was "the very thing they were asking for in the first place."
UP Manila Student Council Vice Chairperson Adrian Sampang, meanwhile, said "money shouldn't have been an issue especially in a state university like UP."
"Sa private schools nga binibigyan ng chance til end of the semester ang estudyante para makapagbayad (Even private schools give students a chance to pay until the end of the semester)," Sampang posted on Facebook Saturday.
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He added: "Ano na ang nangyari sa UP (What has become of UP)?"
Student groups from UP Manila, other UP campuses as well as other state universities have joined cries against the tuition policies.
Prayer rallies and other protests have been mounted, with some organizations also planning to raise funds for the student's family.
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