OVER 5,000 students of the External Studies Centers (ESCs) operated by the Bukidnon State University (BSU) will be displaced if the closure order issued by the Commission on Higher Education (Ched) will be implemented.
The Provincial Board, led by Misamis Oriental Vice-Governor Jose Mari Pelaez, passed a resolution appealing to President Rodrigo Duterte to stop Ched's closure order and allow the continued operation of various BSU-ESCs in the province to avoid displacing thousands of poor students coming from marginalized families until a long-term, better, accessible, and affordable tertiary education institutions are in place.
Pelaez said BSU's ESCs have proven to be a “laudable and tangible poverty reduction program' for more than three decades now.”
In the Resolution 94-2017, it stated that the province recognizes the significant contributions of the ESCs in making higher education affordable and accessible to its poor constituents.
Ched is directing BSU to close some of its ESCs in three regions, such as Northern Mindanao, Davao, and Caraga regions, starting academic year (AY) 2016 to 2017 for not complying to Ched policies and standards.
In Misamis Oriental, there are three external centers operated by BSU in the first district of the province, while second district has seven ESCs, and another one ESC in Cagayan de Oro City.
In a memorandum order released dated April 6, 2016, Ched said that the closure, through phase-out order, will start in AY 2016 to 2017, instead of AY 2015 to 2016 to allow the first year students they have accepted to continue in view of the K to 12 program.
It added the students of the ESCs, who are unaware that their institution was operating without complying with Ched policies, shall not be prejudiced.
The order also stated the governing board of BSU should desist from expanding its operations without complying first with all pertinent Ched policies, standards, and guidelines, “to ensure that those who have less in life be provided with recognized higher education degree.”
As early as April of 2015, Ched conducted fact-finding monitoring visits on the ESCs located in Malaybalay City, Bukidnon, and in the different public elementary and high schools in Northern Mindanao, Davao Region, and Caraga Region.
According to Ched, there are 18 ESCs established by BSU-Main Campus in Malaybalay City, while 10 of these external centers already existed prior to the creation of Ched in 1994.
These centers, Ched said, are using certain portions of public elementary high school buildings, sites, and facilities.
“The operations of these ESCs do not have authorization from the Commission, as the existence of these ESCs were based on Board Resolutions issued by the BSU Governing Board and the memorandum of agreement entered into between BSU representatives, DepEd (Department of Education) officials, local government units,” the order said.
It also added these ESCs cannot be categorized as distance education, recognized in Section 11 of the Manual Regulations for Private Higher Education (Morphe) since the total curricular hours should be in the BSU-Main Campus, not outside of it.
The ESCs cannot also be considered as school branches and extension programs, since the stationed sites, buildings, and facilities are permanently used for public elementary or high school instruction owned by DepEd and its extension programs are restricted to special clientele, under Section 24 of Morphe.
The fact-finding also found out that the establishment of institutional sites and buildings, library standards, and programs' compliance are not complying to the standards.
Committee on Education Vice Chairman Boboy Sabal said the students and their families are worried when they invited them during the committee as a whole meeting.
“These centers are serving working students, concern gyud sa students kung unsaon nila pag-gradwar, dili na makapadayon sila sa kolehiyo, kay sa tinuod, dako gyud ug diperensya ang gasto kung magskwela ka ug colleges (it is the concern of students if they will ever graduate, how can they finish their students, because there is really a big difference if you enroll to other schools),” he said.
The resolution is also sent to Senator Miguel Zubiri, who hails from Bukidnon, Senate President Koko Pimentel, and to the House representatives of Misamis Oriental in both districts.
This paper tried to reach Ched Regional Director Zenaida Gersana to comment, but she said she was busy.