MANILA – The suicide of University of the Philippines freshman Kristel Tejada has highlighted flaws in how UP chooses which students qualify for free tuition and allowance from the university, Kristel’s father said Tuesday.
Christopher Tejada, father of Kristel, said he still cannot understand why Kristel was placed under bracket D of the Socialized Tuition and Financial Assistance Program (STFAP) or with annual family come of P135,000 to P250,000. He said he only got a job last April after 4 years of unemployment.
Under bracket D, Kristel had to pay P300 per unit instead of free tuition plus allowance under bracket E-2.
“How could they have decided on that bracket when I just got my job before she applied in May? I did not have a job in previous years. That was one month before enrollment and that was the only time I would earn P426 a day. I have 4 kids and they are studying. I’ve computed it and my salary just isn’t enough for a family of 6,” he said in an interview on ANC’s Headstart.
Tejada said he was planning to bring the family back to the province because he did not have work for a long time but changed plans after Kristel had passed the UP College Admission Test (UPCAT). He said he encouraged Kristel to pursue her UP education since they saw it as their ticket out of poverty.
UP Vice-President for Public Affairs Prospero de Vera agreed that the STFAP classification focused too much on the parent’s income without considering the family expenses.
“It is more income than expenditure based. Many households in this country, their expenses overwhelm their financial capability kaya talagang dapat nasa mababang bracket sila. Kailangan balansehin,” he said in the same interview.
De Vera said STFAP classification is based on the documents submitted by the students including income tax returns, copies of utility bills, etc. UP officials earlier said Tejada failed to submit documents that would have placed Kristel in a lower STFAP bracket, allowing her to study for free.
De Vera said tuition in UP is subsidized for all students, from brackets A to E-2. Students in Bracket A or with annual family income of above P1 million pay P1,500 per unit. De Vera said this is lower than what other universities charge their students.
He also said less than half of UP’s 52,000 students in 12 campuses apply for inclusion in brackets C, D and E for STFAP. He said other students “just file their application at the school year and their documents so they end up in Bracket A and B because the process is very tedious.”
For his part, Tejada said the mistake about the classification put their family in debt since he was confident that they would be placed under Bracket E.
“Kasi nung una pa lang, nag-eexpect kami. Wala kaming pambayad. Unang-una pa lang may mali na. Nung nagkamali na, yung pagko-correct will take time,” he said.
Kristel committed suicide last March 15 after she was forced to take a leave of absence from the university after failing to enroll in November. Tejada admitted he only applied for Kristel’s student loan on December 19 and ask the university to allow Kristel to enroll right after they had settled their debt with the school.
Don’t force poor students to take leave
Tejada said UP should not force students to take a leave just because of financial constraints. He said Kristel was attending all her classes and was never absent even though she was not enrolled since November.
“They must avoid imposing LOA for financial reasons. That is where you can see as basis those who want to study but have no money. They must look at the status of the student. They must disapprove LOA for students who are never absent, have high grades in exams, because the problem is not with study habits but with money,” he said.
“Ang pera konektado sa magulang. Wag nilang pahirapan yung magulang na pilitin magbayad kasi ang tanging pag-asa din ng magulang ay yung anak.Pparang ganun e - ang nag-aaral wag nilang bigyan ng problema ng magulang. Yung magulang wag bigyan ng problema ng paaralan,” he added.
De Vera, meanwhile, noted that Kristel’s attendance from November to January was not counted since she was not officially enrolled and was included in the roster of students.
He said Tejada’s application on January 23, 2013, asking the school to allow Kristel to enroll came too late.
“When reconsideration was being asked for her to be officially enrolled, it was already January and 9 weeks had passed since the start of classes, way beyond the allowable number of days for late enrollment. Technically and for very practical reasons, the deadline was way due, or way pas. She could not be enrolled anymore in January,” he said.
Tejada said her daughter’s attitude changed when she was asked to file a leave of absence so that she could still enroll next semester. He said Kristel was heartbroken whe she was told that she could not keep going to class because she was not enrolled.
He also said the rejection that Kristel got from UP was the final straw.
“ Minsan ang pagtanggap ng tao sa kabiguan…buhay na mismo yung inaano niya e. Misnan ang pagtanggap ng tao ay inilalagay niya sa UP, sa UP ang buhay ko. Yun yung buhay ko. Pag tinanggal mo ito sa akin yung privilege na...yun lang yung tanging pag-asa niya na nakikita niya para matulungan kami,” he said.
“Hindi nagpakamatay si Kristel dahil sinasabi nag-aaway, kahirapan, ganito. We've been experiencing this for the past 4 years. Bakit niya lang ginawa ito kung halimbawa nakikita niya na naghihirap kami, nag-aaway kami ng mama nya kasi alam niyo nasanay na siyang nakikita kaming nag-aaway. Nasanay na rin siyang naghihirap kami pero wala siyang magawa. Hindi siya pwedeng magtrabahao. Ang pwede lang niyang gawin mag-aral ng mabuti, i-continue yung pag-aaral niya despite nag-aaway kami at kulang kami sa pera.”
“Kailangan niyang makatapos ng pag-aaral para makatulong sa sarilin niya at mai-uplift yung pamilya niya sa kahirapan na kinakasadlakan namin ngayon.”