Youths call for education reforms as peace talks begin

YOUTH groups on Wednesday the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) to address the youth’s education demands in light of the peace talks that began yesterday in Oslo, Norway.

According to Kabataan Partylist Rep. Raymond ‘Mong’ Palatino, “I take the peace talks as a welcome development for it is an opportune venue for the people’s issues to be tackled. I hope that in discussing economic and political issues, both the GRP and the NDFP will take time to discuss and agree on giving fulfillment to these education demands.”

Among the education demands, Palatino cited the following:

Three-year moratorium on tuition increase. The unjust tuition and other fee increases in the past ten years have made it more difficult for the youth to access education.  A three-year moratorium aims to provide immediate relief for the youth. It will also provide time for the review and regulation of tuition and other fee increases.

·         Increase budget of education to 6% of the GDP. For 2011, the education sector only has a budget of around P300 billion. That roughly translates to 3.0% of the GDP, half of the 6% education budget recommended by UNESCO which amounts to P461 billion. The increase is needed to address the urgent issues of the education sector like shortages in schools, teachers, classrooms, books, computers and other learning tools.

·         Improve the welfare of teachers and academic employees. Academic employees continue to suffer from work overload while receiving low  and delayed wages. Salaries of our teachers and academic employees should be raised to a level that will be sufficient in addressing their social needs.

·         Repeal labor-export policy. Our country should benefit from the knowledge and skills of our workers and professionals. The government must provide humane wages for them and generate local jobs to address the growing number of Filipinos seeking work abroad.

·         Uphold democratic rights in schools. Academic freedom and the right to organize should be respected in schools. Various forms of political repression to students, teachers, and academic employees should be ended.

·         Develop a nationalist and relevant curriculum. School courses or subjects should prioritize the country’s needs. Our curriculum should likewise inculcate patriotism and inspire students to serve the people. It should also contribute to national industrialization and help in developing a productive agricultural system.

Palatino said that the previous governments have failed to substantially address the woes of the education sector. He also said  that the education measures undertaken by the Aquino administration leave much to be desired.

“The peace talks aim for progress. That can’t be achieved if the dismal state of Philippine education will continue to worsen.  For the peace talks to be fruitful, it must bear much-needed reforms to alleviate the issues plaguing the youth and the education sector,” he said.

The youth as peace advocates

Palatino also urged the youth to take part in the peace process by engaging in critical dialogues and by understanding the people’s issues that need fundamental solutions.

“The youth must have an active participation in the peace process since, after all, it is us who will inherit this country. Our participation should be marked by acting for peace and not merely wishing for it.”

“Of crucial importance is for the youth to gain critical understanding on why the need for peace talks arose in the first place. Where did the trouble begin? What are the basic people’s issues that fuel social unrest?” Palatino said.

Back to fundamentals

Palatino also warned the youth against “shallow analysis and crude statements” that fail to go deeper into the issue.

“I keep on hearing this view along the lines of, ‘peace will be achieved when the NPAs or the military put down their guns.’ I find this view dangerous for it dilutes the issues on peace that need careful attention.”

“Let it be said once again that wiping the NPAs, for example, off the face of the earth is not the key to peace. We should always go back to the fundamental issues. The road to peace can be laid only after the youth and people’s issues are substantially addressed. Peace will remain elusive if systemic violence continues to breed inequality, poverty, discrimination, and other forms of social injustices,” Palatino said.

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