Manila, March 18-22nd:
Week of ‘Black Protest’ after Student Suicide triggered by inability to Pay for Tuition Fees
A week of ‘Black Protest’ at public and private colleges and universities across the Philippines takes place between March 18 and 22. It commemorates the death of Kristel Tejada who committed suicide, because she couldn’t pay for tuition fees in time. The ‘Black Protest’ is marked by walk-outs and is also directed against another possible increase in tuition fees.
“Education is a right and it shouldn’t be sold,” said Mariz Zubiri, chair of the student council of UP branch in Manila, as hundreds of students rushed to UP (University of the Philippines) Manila to begin protest rallies. Police deployed a so-called security forces on campus.
“This is a call on all students to stand up and strike for education and justice,” said Zubiri at the start of a protest of rallies for Kristel Tejada, a Behavioral Sciences student who died after drinking silver cleaner.
The suicide of Kristel, 16, the eldest of five children of a taxi driver and a housewife, came after she filed a leave of absence in the middle of the second semester for failure to pay tuition of around P10,000 (~ €190/ US$245).
Tejada lost her life after being brought to Manila’s Philippine General Hospital on Friday, March 15.
Her story went viral on the internet over the weekend.
Protesters created a sea of black ribbons all over the campus. 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.
Students of Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) held solidarity protests over the death of Tejada and the reported tuition increase in their school.
“We fear that if tuition and other fees increase in PUP, we will face the same fate as the UP Iskolar ng Bayan*. We must protest the fee hikes,” said PUP student regent Helen Alfonso.
At the Polytechnic University of the Philippines in Manila students kicked off the week with a walk-out and burnt chairs as well as tables in the courtyard on campus.
History repeats itself – just 3 years before (2010), there was a tuition fee increase that was stopped by the burning of wooden chairs that took place in the exact same place, at PUP, Mabini campus.
“Kristel’s death has galvanized the students to act and express their growing discontent to our current education system. The spark ignited by her untimely demise has rekindled the fire of dissent in thousands of students both in public and private universities. Together, let us fight to scrap unjust tuition policies and demand justice for Kristel and for all,” Terry Ridon, president of Kabataan Partylist.
* Students of the university and its graduates are generally referred to as “[Mga] Iskolar ng Bayan”