From grieving parents to advocates of the right to education

Parents of UP student Kristel Tejada, who committed suicide after failing to pay her tuition, refuse to simply move on with their lives; they want to make sure other families would not have to go through the tragedy they experienced.

By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – The pain of parents over the death of their child is immeasurable. The parents of Kristel Tejada, the 16 year old UP-Manila student who took her own life after failing to pay her tuition, said they do not want other students to do what their eldest daughter did. Thus, they too will act to change the system.
“They say life goes on. While other people go on with their own lives, we still endure the pain (of Kristel’s demise). But what is more painful is to see that people are also forgetting why Kristel ended her life,” the emotional Christopher Tejada, father of Kristel said in a forum organized by Congress of Teachers and Educators for Nationalism and Democracy-UP (CONTEND-UP) last July 11.

Christopher blames the tragedy that happened to their family to the inadequate budget allocation for education. “The STFAP would no longer be needed if the government gives full subsidy to the country’s state universities and colleges (SUCs).” He continued, “Until the government allocates enough budget for the education system, SUCs will continue to find ways to generate income for their needs,” said Christopher.

“The STFAP (Socialized Tuition and Financial Assistance Program) for one is a scheme justifying the government’s neglect of education in the Philippines,” said Charlotte France, councilor of UP Diliman student council.

STFAP is a ‘socialized’ tuition scheme being implemented in UP. Students could apply under the STFAP for a reduction in their tuition and the decision is based on the declared family’s annual income. Students are categorized into brackets A, B, C, D, and E. Under Bracket E (those with an annual family income of P80,001 [$1,844.75] or lower), student’s tuition fee, miscellaneous, and laboratory fees are free plus a stipend would be given. Kristel was categorized under Bracket D (those with an annual family income of P80,001 to P135,000 or $3,112.97) which entitled her to a 70-percent discount on the base tuition fee of P1,500 ($34.90) per unit, and full payment of miscellaneous and laboratory fees.

“There is something wrong with the system,” Christopher said. “I know that we have an obligation to pay her tuition, but forcing student to file a leave of absence because she could not pay her tuition is just unacceptable. There are ways and means to pay for the tuition if we were only given a chance to explore our options. But our case was handled by inconsiderate people,” he said referring to UP-Manila Chancellor Manuel Agulto.

“It’s every parent’s dream to see their children finish their studies,” Christopher said. That is why he is more than willing to take part in changing the flawed system that forced Kristel to end her life.

“It’s too painful (to lose Kristel) and we don’t want another student do what Kristel did just because of financial constraints,” Christopher said.
To help struggling parents, Christopher and his wife Blesilda, are working hand in hand with other groups and individuals who put up the Kristel Tejada Scholarship Program, to provide educational assistance for college students in Metro Manila.

“We want to help other parents who are also having difficulties sending their children to school because of financial constraints,” Blesilda told Bulatlat.com.
The Kristel Tejada Scholarship Program was put up by Kristel’s professor Jocelyn Del Mundo, Blesilda said. Del Mundo, with other friends, decided to put up the scholarship program to help students like Kristel and also to prevent the same circumstances from happening again.

Blesilda said the scholarship program is in the process of gathering donors and sponsors to donate funds for the program. “We are also now looking for students who can avail of the program,” she said.

Asked about how life is after Kristel had died, Blesilda said that while they are still enduring the pain of Kristel’s unexpected death, they are trying to move on for their three children. Through prayers and help from friends, Blesilda has been trying hard to cope with Kristel’s lost.

“I try to think that she just went abroad and that one day I and the rest of the family will see her again,” Blesilda said.

The couple vowed to fight for the youth’s right to education. ()

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