Manila: Students vowed to hold a week of rallies on Monday to protest an administration policy after a student committed suicide on Friday apparently over non-payment of her tuition fee at the premier University of the Philippines UP.
“This is a call on all students to stand up and strike for education and justice,” said Mariz Zubiri, chair of the student council of UP branch in Manila, at the start of a protest of rallies for Kristel Tejada, a Behavioral Sciences student who died after drinking silver cleaner.
Tejada lost her life after being brought to Manila’s Philippine General Hospital on Friday.
“Education is a right and it shouldn’t be sold,” Zubiri said, as hundreds of students rushed to UP Manila to begin protest rallies.
UP Manila’s administrators should be held accountable for implementing strict “no late payment” of tuition fees, said Zubiri, adding that school administrators who were behind the policy of no late tuition fee payment should be held accountable for Tejada’s suicide.
Zubiri also asked President Benigno Aquino to declare a moratorium on tuition increases, adding that Zubiri’s death should prompt the government to work for the provision of free and quality education for deserving poor students.
Protesters created a sea of black ribbons over the school premises. They also wore black ribbons on their right arms.
Students created black handprints on a piece of white cloth in solidarity with her mourning family.
Militant groups joined the protesting students.
Tejada’s story went viral on the internet over the weekend.
Administrators, faculty members, and employees also attended a Christian mass held at UP PGH chapel.
Police deployed a security force at UP Manila to prevent emotional students from turning violent.
“If only I knew the extent of her difficulties, I personally would have attended to her needs,” Manuel Agulto , UP Manila Chancellor said in a press briefing.
“Our compassion has been questioned a lot in the media. We have been portrayed as cold-hearted and ruthless,” said teary-eyed Agulto.
In a radio interview, Tejada’s mother said her daughter failed to get a category that would have given her lesser tuition fee, because they family could not send a photo of their residence.
Tejada will be buried at Manila’s North Cemetery on Saturday, her mother said.