MISAMIS Oriental Vice Governor Jose Mari Pelaez said closing the External Studies Centers (ESCs) operated by Bukidnon State University (BSU) is like abandoning the poor and taking away their access to education.
The Commission on higher Education (Ched) is directing BSU to close some of its ESCs in Northern Mindanao, Davao, and Caraga regions starting academic year 2016 to 2017 for not complying to Ched policies and standards.
“Mga probre ang nangeskwela diha, children of fishermen, farmers, mga household help, working students, so kining mga tawhana dili gyud ni maka-afford ug affordable nga education nga wala diha sa ilang kaugalingong municipality (Poor students are enrolled there, these are children of fishermen, farmers, some are household help, and working students, these people really cannot afford education if a school is not within their municipality),” Pelaez said.
The ESCs, which existed for 30 years, have produced successful graduates who are teachers, policemen, principals, supervisors, managers, bank tellers and without the education they got from ESCs, they won't have this opportunity, he added.
In Misamis Oriental, about 11 ESCs face closure. They are located in Alunijid, Gingoog City, Kinoguitan, Linertad, Magsaysay, Manticao, Medina, Salay, Talisayan, Sugbongcogon, and another in Cagayan de Oro City.
The oldest ESC in the province was created as early as 1981 in Alubijid and Kinoguitan towns, 13 years apart from the creation of Ched which was in 1994.
According to BSU records, most of the students enrolled in the ESCs are working students, children of farmers, fishermen, government employee, married students, household help, and even rebels.
The ESCs offer 15 courses this school year, among them are Bachelor of Elementary and Secondary Education, Business Administration, Public Administration, Economics, and Social Science.
These courses, according to the data, does not offer tuition fees exceeding P8,000.
“The bigger picture is what will happen to this 5,000 young people if you remove this program. In 2020, there's a displacement, because those who will graduate from senior high school especially the poor have nowhere to go.” Pelaez said.
The vice governor said during the hearing, students told him that if the study centers will be closed, they might be forced to join the rebels because they would feel that the government is abandoning them.
“We really hope the President would intervene, we are going to present this case,” Pelaez added.
The League of Filipino Students (LFS) in Northern Mindanao also said the looming closure of educational centers as manifestation of the crisis in the educational system.
Kristine Cabardo, Northern Mindanao Regional Chairperson of the LFS, said instead of closing the ESCs, the Ched should address what is currently lacking in these study centers, and make them competent.
“Closing the campuses and displacing thousands of students will not lead to a better educational system. It will simply become more selective, more elitist, only those who can pay will be able to access it,” Cabardo added.
While the Provincial Government unit has already sent its appeal to revert the decision, LFS calls on the youth to support the call for an accessible quality education for everyone.
“The lack of competencies and qualifications of these centers should be seen as a neglect of the state, similar to its neglect of the needs of the Filipino masses,” Cabardo said.
“We can tie this up to the militaristic tendencies of government decisions. Education is a good foundation for genuine development in our country. This would allow opportunities for the poor. But instead of providing enough resources to improve these institutions, it has put bigger allocations to the upgrading of military equipment. This well-funded military then trains their guns on the poor people who voice out against their lack of access to government support and services.”
The youth organization insists that unless the government sets education as a priority, including other basic services that the Filipinos are entitled to, systemic crises in the country will not be resolved.